Senate District 1
Rob McColley
McColley, Brenner Testify on Bill to Strengthen Free Speech on College Campuses
February 28, 2019
COLUMBUS—State Senators Rob McColley (R-Napoleon) and Andrew Brenner (R-Powell) yesterday testified on Senate Bill 40, which aims to strengthen students' rights to freely express their views on college campuses.

The bill generally prohibits a state institution of higher education, or any of its administrators acting in their official capacity, from taking any action or enforcing any policy that limits or restricts the constitutional right of a member of the campus community to engage in noncommercial free speech.

It further clarifies that its prohibition applies only so long as that activity is lawful and does not disrupt the functioning of the state institution.

"There has been a rising trend across the country where we are seeing universities set a tone that works against conservative groups or speakers, not allowing them to express themselves freely," said McColley. "This is a troubling trend that we need to take a hard look at to ensure the intellectual integrity of our institutions of higher education is maintained."

During their testimony, Senators McColley and Brenner highlighted four key components of the bill:

  1. Protects peaceful, expressive activities such as assembly, protests, speeches, distribution of literature, petition circulation, sign display and guest speakers;

  2. Generally bans speech-restricting "free speech zones" on public university campuses;

  3. Expressly rejects enabling conduct that disrupts another individual or group's lawful expression on a college campus; and

  4. Allows for civil action by individuals or student organization against violations of the legislation's provisions.

"Students should not be afraid that their speech will be squashed by institutions of higher education by restricting students to 'free speech zones' or using chilling tactics on those invited by students to the campus," said Senator Brenner.

To view the sponsor testimony on Senate Bill 40, click here. Testimony begins at 52:30 of the archived video. For more information, including the bill text and analysis, please click here.

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