A win for campus free speech came out of Nashville this past week when the Tennessee State Senate unanimously passed the Campus Free Speech Protection Act by a vote of 30-0. Senate Bill 723 was signed into law by Governor Bill Haslam (R) on May 9.
The measure is “the most comprehensive state legislation” of its kind, according to Robert Shibley, Executive Director of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), an organization dedicated to protecting constitutional rights on college campuses.
The new law prohibits academic institutions from rescinding invitations to speakers, as well as from creating “free speech zones” or “safe spaces.” In addition to these restrictions, the law also requires colleges to adopt campus-wide free speech policies, similar to the policy enacted by the University of Chicago at the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year.
Several states have pending campus Free Speech measures in response to several controversies on college campuses within the past year, including the controversy this past February when the University of California Berkeley rescinded an invitation to Breitbart editor and outspoken Trump-supporter Milo Yiannopoulos after students staged violent protests.
In March, American Enterprise Institute scholar Charles Murray was greeted at Middlebury College in Vermont by a mob of students who shut down his speech.
Conservative author, Ann Coulter, was forced to cancel her speech at UC Berkeley after concerns of safety arose.
Free speech bills have been passed by Colorado, Texas, Utah and Virginia, while similar legislation is pending in California, Illinois, Michigan, North Carolina, and Wisconsin. A campus free speech bill was narrowly defeated in the Louisiana House of Representatives on May 18.