In the potpourri of college censorship that poisons free speech on campus, some ingredients have innocuous titles: Free Speech Zones, Safe Spaces, and Bias Response Teams. None of these elements are what they purport to be, nor do they promote free expression.
Free Speech Zones limit where and when students can demonstrate or distribute literature. Safe Spaces are elaborate efforts to prevent students from hearing ideas with which they disagree. Bias Response Teams act on anonymous tips to interrogate individuals when others report being offended.
Fortunately, state lawmakers continue to enact proposals to counter these ideas: Arizona is one of several states to abolish free speech zones in recent years, while lawmakers in North Carolina and Georgia, along with Arizona legislators and the Wisconsin state university system governing board have adopted proposals in just the last 12 months to protect individuals’ efforts to speak freely.
Meanwhile, groups that defend freedom are taking colleges to court over their speech policies, and now Bias Response Teams may be on the docket.
Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal reported that a membership association of students, alumni, and faculty called Speech First is challenging the University of Michigan’s Bias Response Team. Speech First says, “Bias Response Teams are fundamentally un-American and have no place on college campuses.” The group says the University of Michigan’s Bias Response Team can be alerted by “staggering amounts of protected speech.”
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