NTF Issue Paper: edmonII.11.doc. 9-17.

The University of Nebraska Administration clearly is not planning to safeguard free speech 1st Amendment rights on Nebraska college campuses. Top administrators refuse to discipline in any way faculty members who bully and harass conservative college students or who degrade and downgrade students who display conservative political or religious beliefs in college classrooms. Therefore, state senators must sponsor, promote, and pass legislation guaranteeing both students and faculty their 1st Amendment rights on NE college campuses. As the U.S. Supreme Court noted, “The college classroom with its surrounding environs is peculiarly the ‘marketplace of ideas.’” The precedents of the Supreme Court “leave no room for the view that, because of the acknowledged need for order, First Amendment protections should apply with less force on college campuses than in the community at large. Quite to the contrary, the vigilant protection of constitutional freedoms is nowhere more vital than in the community of American schools.” The legislature has a duty to enforce the protections of the state and U.S. constitutions. Our legislature must officially recognize freedom of speech on our college campuses as a fundamental right. The American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative think tank, established a Center to Protect Free Speech and is pushing model legislation to eliminate free speech zones, protect counter-protesters from discipline for lawful expression, and allow people whose free speech rights have suffered violation to file lawsuits. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos told state legislators and those in charge of setting funding levels for public universities that they should put campus officials on notice if they, their faculty, or student body try to muzzle free speech.

Free speech means any lawful verbal or written means by which individuals communicate ideas to one another, including all forms of peaceful assembly, protests, speaking verbally, holding signs, circulating petitions, and distributing written materials. Free speech also includes voter registration activities but does not include speech primarily for a commercial purpose.

To perform its mission, the university must sustain an extraordinary environment of freedom of inquiry and maintain an independence from political fashions, passions, and pressures. Our university system must ensure free, enthusiastic, and uninhibited debate and deliberation by students and faculty. A university policy must protect, explain, and defend free expression on campus. The primary function of a university is the discovery, improvement, transmission, and dissemination of knowledge by means of research, teaching, discussion, and debate. To fulfill this function. a free interchange of ideas is necessary on its campuses; free expression is a central value and priority of university life. Our university system should guarantee all members of the university community the widest possible latitude to speak, write, listen, challenge, and learn. It is not the proper role of the university to attempt to shield individuals from speech protected by the 1st Amendment, including ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive. Concerns about civility and mutual respect can never serve as a justification for silencing discussion of ideas, however offensive or disagreeable those ideas may seem to some. Encouraging the ability of members of the university community to engage in debate and deliberation in an effective and responsible manner is an essential part of the university educational mission, also the need to foster awareness and understanding of the principle of freedom of speech itself. Although members of the university community may freely criticize and contest the views expressed on campus and to criticize and contest speakers invited to express their views on campus, they may not obstruct or otherwise interfere with the freedom of others to express views with which they disagree or despise (Models from Yale University, the U. of Chicago, and Goldwater Institute).

A legislative bill should include the following privileges, rights, and responsibilities:
 The U. board of regents will develop an official policy statement that both ensures the fullest degree of intellectual freedom and explains its intellectual rationale.
 Regents will develop a free expression policy stating the university’s’ “primary function … is the discovery, improvement, transmission, and dissemination of knowledge,” and it is not the role of an institution “to shield individuals from speech protected by the First Amendment.”
 The university must fully respect and support the freedom of all members of the university community to discuss an issue that presents itself.
 Allow university officials to establish reasonable restrictions on the time, place, and manner of student expression in order to protect its institutional functions from unreasonable disruption. This clarifies the standard courts will apply to university speech codes by ensuring that regulations are actually necessary to prevent disruption of the university.
 The university may not impose restrictions on the time, place, and manner of student speech, unless such restrictions appear reasonable, justified without reference to the speech content, narrowly tailored to serve a significant government interest, and leave open sufficient alternative channels for communication of the information or message.
 Free speech restrictions must appear necessary to achieve a significant institutional interest and must also be clear and published.
 A freshman orientation program will describe the policies and regulations regarding free expression contained in the bill. Students can read the extended statement on freedom of speech and its place in the university and will understand in detail the discipline policy. Such is important, because students must understand the potential consequences of infringing the rights of others, if the system of discipline means to prevent such abuses before they occur. The U. may create additional guidelines and policies to further this original policy.
 The U. must publish free speech rules annually in the student handbook and faculty handbook, whether paper or electronic, made available to students and faculty by means of a prominent notice on the institution internet site, or sent annually to students and employees to their email addresses.
 The student codes of conduct for the campuses must contain procedures for disciplinary actions for violations in instances involving free speech.
 The university could schedule a series of invited lectures, conferences, or debates on freedom of speech.
 No requirement to fund costs associated with student speech or expression.
 Any person lawfully present on campus may protest, demonstrate, assemble, or engage in spontaneous expressive activity like distributing flyers, as long as they adhere to university regulations of the time, place, and manner of expression and do not infringe upon the rights of others to engage in or listen to free speech activity.
 Protests and demonstrations that infringe upon the rights of others to engage in or listen to free speech activity not allowed and subject to sanction.
 Protests or demonstrations must not interfere with regularly-scheduled campus events.
 Campuses must maintain their generally accessible, open, outdoor areas as public forums for free speech, available to speakers on the same terms.
 The university may not establish permitting requirements that prohibit spontaneous outdoor assemblies or outdoor distribution of literature, although it may maintain a policy that grants members of the college or university community the right to reserve specific outdoor spaces in advance.
 The university may not deny student activity fee funding to a student organization based on the viewpoints that the student organization advocates.
 The right of free expression does not prohibit professors or other instructors from maintaining order in their classrooms.
 A right of students, student groups, or members of the faculty to invite outside speakers of their choice to the campus. The university may not charge students security fees based on the content of the speech of guest speakers invited by students or the anticipated reaction or opposition of listeners.
 The university may restrict expression that constitutes a genuine threat or harassment or that unjustifiably invades substantial privacy or confidentiality interests.
 The university could prohibit harassment that is so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively bars a victim access to an educational opportunity or benefit.
 The university could stop threats, defined as statements meant by a speaker to communicate a serious expression of intent to commit an act of illegal violence to a particular individual or group of individuals.
 The university may regulate student speech or activity prohibited by state or federal law. For example, campus speakers could not solicit students to join ISIS, because it is illegal under 18 U.S.C. § 2339A to provide material support for terrorists.
 Rules will prevent faculty from suffering punishment for what they choose to say in the classroom, unless it is “not reasonably germane to the subject matter of the class as broadly construed, and comprises a substantial portion of classroom instruction.”
 Professors credentialed as professionals must behave professionally in the classroom. They should not grade students by criteria that are not academic, should provide students with access to more than one point of view, teach their academic expertise and not their uninformed opinions, and not introduce their political agendas into the classroom. Academic freedom is not the same as free speech. Everyone has the right as a citizen to express their views freely in the public square. But a classroom is not a public square; it is a place of learning, and that means that professors must not use their classrooms as platforms for political causes that discriminate against students.
 A U. policy to include a range of disciplinary sanctions for students and faculty who engage in violent, abusive, indecent, profane, obscene, or other disorderly conduct that interferes with free speech rights.
 Individuals prevented from speaking on campus, herded to unreasonable “free speech zones,” or discriminated against based on the content of their speech will have recourse to the courts to enforce the protections of the bill. By allowing plaintiffs to recover attorney fees, the bill makes it practical for plaintiffs to bring cases where significant nonmonetary values are at stake. The fee provisions also serve as a reminder to administrators that they must take free-speech rights seriously or face serious consequences.
 The Attorney General or any person whose free speech rights appear violated may sue in a court of competent jurisdiction against the constituent institution to enjoin a violation and recover reasonable court costs and reasonable attorney fees. A person must bring an action for a violation within one year after the date of the cause of action.
 If a court finds that a violation occurred, the court will award the aggrieved person injunctive relief for the violation, reasonable court costs, reasonable attorney fees, and damages of $1,000 or actual damages, whichever is higher.
 Provision of strong due-process protections at campus disciplinary hearings. A student subject to a disciplinary hearing has (1) the right to receive advanced written notice of the charges, (2) the right to review the evidence in support of the charges, (3) the right to confront witnesses against them, (4) the right to present a defense, (5) the right to call witnesses, (6) right of a decision by an impartial arbiter or panel, (7) the right of appeal, and (8), the right to legal assistance when suspension for longer than 30 days, or expulsion, are potential penalties. Due process protection mandated by the State of NE and U.S. Constitutions.
 A first offense merits a probationary warning.
 A student twice found guilty of infringing the free speech rights of others will face suspension for 1 semester. A third offense merits immediate expulsion.
 The university prohibited from requiring students to publicly express a particular political or social policy view.
 Current university free speech rules inconsistent with new provision nullified.

Leftist activists oppose free speech by calling conservative speech hate speech or hate crimes. Free speech suffers assault because of a 3-pronged argument made by the advocates and justifiers of violence. They argue that the validity of an argument should depend on the ethnic, sexual, racial, or cultural identity of the person making the argument. Secondly, that conservatives engage in verbal deceit. Thirdly, they justify physical violence as warranted to stop what they call verbal violence. Witness the mayhem at Berkeley or Yale U.

The state legislature wields funding authority over our university system, and the board of regents has the authority to fire leading administrators. If the university leadership refuses to implement free speech directives of the bill or hides free speech problems, taxpayers must prod senators to threaten additional budget cuts to prompt compliance. Regents must threaten terminations. Energetic taxpayer involvement in issues of campus free speech is a powerful prodding mechanism, because NE taxpayers fund about 65% of the university budget, more if your offspring attend college in this system. Email netaxpayers@gmail.com today to join the NE Taxpayers for Freedom University Watch Project.

Research, documentation, and analysis for this issue paper done by Nebraska Taxpayers for Freedom. This material copyrighted by Nebraska Taxpayers for Freedom, with express prior permission granted for its use by other groups in the NE Conservative Coalition Network. 9-17 C.

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