by Christina Sandefur

May 15, 2018

Free speech on campus continued to make headlines in 2018. According to the College Fix, 11 shout downs have occurred since September 2017. We can add at least one more to the list: City University of New York law students heckled visiting lecturer Josh Blackman’s speech in March, intimidating students that wanted to hear the speech and forcing Blackman to delay the beginning of his event. None of the hecklers were punished, even though the student handbook forbids disrupting invited speakers.

However, the Goldwater Institute’s efforts are measurably turning the tide. In 2017, policymakers in North Carolina and Wisconsin adopted free speech on campus policies based on our model crafted by Stanley Kurtz of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and Goldwater senior fellows Jim Manley (Pacific Legal Foundation) and Jonathan Butcher (The Heritage Foundation).

In the first half of 2018, our ideas helped shape new laws protecting free expression on public college campuses in Arizona and Georgia. The victory for liberty in Arizona is the second time in three years that Goldwater has helped protect free speech in our home state.

All of these policies share the key components of the Goldwater model, including disciplinary sanctions for individuals that violate the free speech rights of others and committing universities to being neutral on public policy issues of the day. This latter provision is critical in order for students and faculty to take positions on such issues and not fear institutional reprisal.

Lawmakers in 9 other states considered legislation based on our ideas including Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, West Virginia, and South Carolina.

These policies are already protecting free speech. When Second Amendment supporter and conservative author Katie Pavlich spoke at the UW Madison, demonstrators staged a protest but decided not to disrupt her talk and specifically attributed their decision to the new “three strikes” discipline policy.

Goldwater experts have also been traveling to college campuses around the country speaking with groups of students and faculty about the importance of protecting free speech for everyone. Jim Manley gave presentations on nearly a dozen campuses including Sacramento State, the University of California-Berkeley, and American University.

At an event hosted by Young Americans for Freedom at Grand Canyon University, Goldwater found students fed up with campus shout downs: “Shout downs stop me from receiving that opportunity to understand a different person’s way of thinking, and it blocks me from furthering my way of thinking,” said one student.

Goldwater’s ideas continue to spread around the country, protecting everyone’s right to speak—and be heard.

You can read more about the Institute’s model legislation to protect the freedom of speech at RestoreFreeSpeech.com.