June 20, 2019
By Jonathan Butcher
Nowhere in the U.S. do individuals struggle more to listen and be heard than on college campuses.
Alabama lawmakers appear to agree. Earlier this month, Gov. Kay Ivey signed bipartisan legislation to protect free speech at public universities. Threats to free expression exist at institutions of higher education around the country, and Alabama is no exception.
Young America’s Foundation and the Alliance Defending Freedom wrote the University of Alabama a letter in 2017 decrying the school’s policy for handing out literature on campus. Last fall, the College Media Association censured the University of North Alabama (UNA) for withholding records from the student newspaper. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education calls Alabama A&M and UNA two of the nation’s “worst colleges for free speech” because of the schools’ speech codes.
Alabama’s new law aims to affirm expressive rights at state-run colleges and universities. It bars the schools from sanctioning faculty members or students for writing commentary or staging a demonstration opposing policies or positions taken by the school. Public colleges also can no longer create so-called “free-speech zones,” which actually restrained speech by restricting expressive activity to isolated areas of campus.
Jonathan Butcher is a Senior Fellow at the Goldwater Institute.