“Free Speech Zones” in Georgia

Another day, another attack by public colleges and universities on the Constitutional rights of their students. It’s easy to conclude that colleges and universities have forgotten who their students are: the people who are paying them for their services, and the reason these “institutes of higher education” exist. But, that’s another discussion.

The entire public higher education system of the state of Georgia is massed against a proposed bill in the state legislature that would ban “free speech zones” on their campuses. Apparently, “free speech zones” have become part and parcel of liberal education in the United States, as they’ve been adopted by many, if not most, public colleges and universities. Colleges and universities used to be bastions of the free exchange of ideas, where controversial speech, as well as speech defending the status quo and expressing the conventional wisdom, were not only tolerated, but encouraged in order to create an atmosphere where students’ minds were exposed to various and sundry ideas so that they might expand, becoming more understanding of differing viewpoints and more tolerant of those who thought differently.

No so now. Apparently, in the name of tolerance, colleges and universities are only willing to countenance views consistent with the particular political and social viewpoint of their faculty and administration, the great majority of whom lean left.

Does anyone question that “free speech zones” were conjured for the purpose of suppressing freedom of speech and the free exchange of ideas? Does anyone seriously defend them as a means to facilitate free speech and the free exchange of ideas? That alone ought to inspire in every state legislator proud of his or her state’s tradition of higher education and desiring to preserve his or her state’s reputation as a fortress of freedom and respect for the Constitution and its citizens to beat down unrelentingly any attempt at the public colleges and universities of his or her state to enact “free speech zones.” Sadly, that isn’t the case. But, the movement is growing, I think.

The article linked above writes of an attempt to ban “free speech zones” in Georgia. SB 339 is sponsored by Sen. William Ligon in the hope of preserving and restoring the free speech rights of students on Georgia campuses. Unfortunately, the bill has been fought against vigorously by the public higher education system in Georgia and has been amended to allow “free speech zones.” You read that right: a bill originally intended to ban “free speech zones” and protect the free speech rights of students now protects “free speech zones.” Sen. Ligon is working to restore the ban on “free speech zones” in his bill.

This is a national fight, however. So far, only ten states have banned “free speech zones” on their public college and university campuses. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) has introduced a federal bill that would ban such zones on all campuses nationwide. It deserves our support.

Ruth Malhotra, testifying in favor of SB 339 at a hearing in February, told of the time she accused a Georgia Tech dean of trying to indoctrinate students. The dean replies, “Ruth, students have been indoctrinated for the first 18 years of their lives by their parents and by their churches; we only have four years to undo the damage.”

The purpose of suppressing the free speech of citizens by those in power is to control those citizens. Faculty members and administrators on many public college and university campuses have their own agendas. Suppressing the free speech of their students is one way to make sure their agendas are pushed, and other viewpoints that may question those agendas are suppressed. In a free country, this cannot stand.

Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.

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