NTF Issue Paper: legwatch35.doc. 1-18.

Like many other college campuses, Nebraska campuses have witnessed an increasing incidence of bullying and harassment of conservative collegians exercising their 1st Amendment rights to assemble and publicize their conservative political beliefs with fellow students. Not only do radical students intimidate conservative students but also leftist faculty members harass students by physical confrontation, vitriolic verbiage, and shaming and downgrading them in class. The most recent example, the bullying of a UNL student working at a conservative group table by a faculty member and teaching assistant, provides sufficient reason for our state senators to act. These radicals believe harassment or physical violence sometimes justified to stop what they term unacceptable conservative verbal violence. Unfortunately, the NE university leadership so far has appeared unable or unwilling to guarantee 1st Amendment rights on campus and to penalize those engaging in unprofessional conduct. An increasing number of state legislatures have passed bills guaranteeing free speech for students and faculty and instituted academic bills of rights. Like too many other college campuses, for too long, NE university and college campuses have percolated as leftist indoctrination centers for our youth. Although liberal college administrators and faculty deny this fact or disclaim knowledge of leftist bias, flagrant examples abound. Liberal professors mock conservative students and downgrade their work. They use their tenured positions to propagandize our young people into becoming budding leftists, like themselves, sometimes subordinating their classroom content in favor of political polemics. Nebraska taxpayers fund our institutions of higher education, currently the second highest consumer of state tax dollars ($622,743,615). Parents pay exorbitant tuition rates to fund the salaries and benefits of faculty and staff. Overtaxed Nebraskans deserve political reform at our NE campuses. Finally, one state senator seeks to rectify this intolerable higher education situation with a remedial legislative bill.

Conservative Sen. Steve Halloran introduced LB 718, the Higher Education Free Speech Accountability Act. This bill requires the University Board of Regents to develop, adopt, and produce a campus-wide policy governing free speech. This policy will include a statement that the primary function of every campus is the improvement, transmission, and dissemination of knowledge by means of research, teaching, discussion, and debate. Each campus must ensure the highest degree of intellectual freedom and free expression. A statement that campuses should not shield individuals from speech protected by the 1st Amendment, including ideas and opinions that some may consider irritable, disagreeable, or offensive. No campus may initiate action regarding political controversies that require students, faculty, or administrators to publicly express a particular viewpoint on such issues. Students and faculty must have freedom to freely discuss an issue that presents itself within limits of time, place, and manner of expression consistent with the bill. Restrictions must be clear, published, and provide alternative means of expression. Students or faculty allowed to assemble and engage in rallies if not unlawful and do not materially and substantially disrupt campus functioning. Access to campuses for free speech and rallies subject to 1st Amendment rights and to reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions. Public areas on campuses are traditional public forums and must open to any speaker who students, student organizations, or faculty members invite. Impermissible are protests or demonstrations that materially or substantially infringe on rights of others to engage in activities or listen to speakers or rallies. Students or university employees who engage in such protests will face sanctions and a series of progressive sanctions for violating the policy governing free speech. Nothing in this bill prevents a campus from regulating student speech or activity prohibited by law. A campus can only restrict student speech if such violates state or federal law, defames, illegally harasses, threatens violence to individuals or groups, invades privacy or confidentiality not involving a public concern, or constitutes activities that substantially disrupt campus functioning and that violate reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions.

Board of Regents will create a free speech committee of 9 members, including 3 regents, 3 faculty members, and 3 students, all serving 1- year terms with no payment except reimbursement for actual and necessary expenses. The committee annually will present a report to the public, Board of Regents, the Governor, and Legislature. Each report will describe barriers to or incidents of disruption of free speech occurring on campuses, including attempts to block or prohibit speakers and investigations into students or student organizations for exercising free speech rights. The report must relate the disciplinary action, if any, taken against campus individuals responsible for these barriers or incidents. It also must include committee assessments, criticisms, commendations, or recommendations. This report must become easily accessible from the home page of each campus website and easily accessible to the public. If a campus official sued by an aggrieved student or organization for allegedly violating the 1st Amendment, the committee will submit a report of such incident together with a copy of the complaint to the Governor and Legislature on or before 30 days after a lawsuit filed. Every campus must post on its website a report that details the course of action done to comply with the bill provisions and the adopted policy governing free speech. It also must post on its website alterations or updates to a course of action. All university employees and each state dept. and agency must cooperate with the committee by providing requested information. The Board of Regents may adopt additional policies and guidelines to further the intent of the adopted policy. The Board also will develop a policy that requires every campus to identify the person or office responsible for ensuring compliance with the legislation and for answering questions or concerns.

LB 718 is assigned to the Education Committee and will have a scheduled public hearing. Contact the following committee senators and urge them to vote to advance LB 718 to the full Legislature for full debate: Senators Mike Groene, Steve Erdman, Rick Kolowski, Laura Ebke, Lou Ann Linehan, Adam Morfeld, Patty Pansing Brooks, and Lynne Walz. Email netaxpayers@gmail.com for state senator contact information.

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. 1-18. C.

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