Florida Senate Judiciary Committee Should Seize Opportunity to Protect Free Speech on Campus

Tallahassee, Fla – Today, the Florida Senate Judiciary Committee will vote on whether or not to advance SB 1234, also known as the Campus Free Expression Act. The bill will improve the free speech climate at Florida’s publicly funded college and university campuses by ending so-called “free speech zones.” These deceptively titled zones actually restrict students from exercising their constitutionally-protected First Amendment rights by restricting free expression to sanctioned and pre-determined zones. The legislation would also make it easier for students who have their speech rights violated to force their schools to comply with the First Amendment.

Generation Opportunity-Florida (GO-FL) is providing testimony at today’s hearing and is fully supportive of both the House and Senate versions of the bill introduced respectively by Rep. Bob Rommel (R-HD106) and Sen. Dennis Baxley (R-SD12).

GO-FL Coalitions Director Demetrius Minor issued the following statement:

“College is a place where young people learn to express themselves and challenge ideas that go against their beliefs, but that dialogue will never occur if free speech is forced into the remote and empty corners of our campuses. We don’t always agree with every single viewpoint expressed on campuses across our state, but disagreeing with an opinion does not give us license to deny someone’s First Amendment right to voice it. We appreciate the time and attention the Florida Senate Judiciary Committee is giving SB 1234 and encourage them to advance it without delay.”

Recently, Minor posted a video addressing the importance of free speech on campus, where he asked viewers to consider the historical impact Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington would have had if it had been designated to a “free speech zone” rather than the National Mall. View the full video here.

Earlier this year, Generation Opportunity launched a mail campaign urging Floridians to thank Sen. Baxley and Rep. Rommel for introducing House and Senate versions of the Campus Free Expression Act. Click on the hyperlinks to view the full-size images of the mail pieces for Rep. Rommel and Sen. Baxley.

According to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), nearly one in six universities maintain free speech zones – a space designed to limit your ability to hold “rallies, demonstrations, distribute literature, circulate petitions and give speeches.” Permission is usually required to use these “speech zones,” and applications must be approved by the university days or even weeks in advance. GO-FL believes the entire college campus should be a free speech zone, not just one area.

A recent Brookings Institute Study found one in five college students surveyed said using violence against a speaker known for making offensive statements was acceptable.

To learn more about the Campus Free Expression Act, click here.