If you’ve spent time at colleges in recent years, you might’ve encountered a “free speech zone.” But in Georgia, such a thing can’t any longer exist.
On Tuesday, Gov. Brian Kemp signed into law HB 1, otherwise known as the Forming Open and Robust University Minds (FORUM) Act.
The legislation will nip in the bud certain First Amendment funny business at public colleges and universities.
For those unfamiliar with the state of school speech, Georgia’s Libertarian Party provides a description previous to the bill becoming law:
“[F]ree speech zones”…physically contain political, religious, or other controversial speech to certain areas of campus. … As it sits now, students are given less than one percent of the entire campus for “free” speech.
Speaking to The College Fix, Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Zack Pruitt offers more:
“Restricting free speech to small, out-of-the-way areas of campus limits the ability of students and student organizations to effectively communicate their message. … In one GA case, Uzuegbunam v. Preczewski, Georgia Gwinnett College had two tiny ’free speech zones’ that made up .0015% of campus which severely limited the ability of student Chike Uzuegbunam to share his faith with others.”
HB1’s action, from the measure itself:
To prevent the creation of “free speech zones” at such public institutions of higher education; to allow for reasonable, content- and viewpoint-neutral, and narrowly tailored time, place, and manner restrictions on expressive activity at public institutions of higher education; to prohibit material and substantial disruption of protected expressive activity at public institutions of higher education; to require public institutions of higher education to provide public notice of rules and expectations regarding expressive activity; to require public institutions of higher education to develop materials, programs, and procedures related to expressive activity; to provide for a short title; to provide for definitions; to provide for related matters; to provide for an effective date; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes.
The mere concept of a free speech zone signals a colossal cultural change. These days, a “free speech” sign is much more likely to serve as warning than welcome.
Consider the following image allegedly from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis:
— Libs of TikTok (@libsoftiktok) March 24, 2022
Whether or not the photo is legitimate, it’s a solid illustration of higher education’s shift.
Meanwhile, of course, the same is happening to speech in the public square:
Nothing stays the same. Yet, not so long ago — and for a very, very long time — we all had access to a giant free speech zone. It was known as America.
With the signing of HB1, students in Georgia are getting treated to a bit of old-school liberty.
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