• July 18, 2019

Bevin signs bill protecting free speech at public Kentucky colleges and universities - The Trail Blazer: Life & Arts

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Bevin signs bill protecting free speech at public Kentucky colleges and universities

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Posted: Thursday, March 28, 2019 8:58 pm

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin signed a new bill into law on Tuesday that protects free speech at Kentucky public colleges and universities, and will make some changes to the way Morehead State maintains free speech areas. 

HB 254 grants students the “broadest possible latitude to speak, write, listen, challenge, learn, and discuss any issue.” The bill restricts the use of free speech zones and requires institutions to have “a marketplace of ideas where the free exchange of ideas is not suppressed.”

This means that Morehead State University must change current policy on free speech. The current free speech zone, located in front of the Camden-Carroll Library, can no longer be the sole area for free speech under this law. 

“Kentucky’s public universities and colleges are meant to be free and open to the exchange of ideas,” said Zach Pruitt, an attorney for the Alliance Defending Freedom, to Washington Post. “This new law helps ensure that public universities continue to be places where intellectual diversity flourishes and both students and faculty are able to engage in the exchange of ideas rather than being censored on campus.”

The new law also bans administrative permits for “spontaneous outdoor assemblies.” It also creates a “cause of action,” or opportunity for a lawsuit, in state court by allowing damages of at least $1,000 and up to $100,000.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a group who monitors free speech on campus, gave MSU a “red” rating, the lowest rating, for a policy that “clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech.” The two red-rated policies are MSU’s Sexual Harassment policy and Technology Resource Acceptable Use policy.