One bill aims to protect free speech on college campuses

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HARRISONBURG, Va (WHSV) -- A bill in the General Assembly looks to make sure speech, and other freedoms on college campuses, remain protected.

The bill was introduced by local delegate Steve Landes, and has passed the House of Delegates by a vote of 76 to 19.

The bill prevents colleges and universities from "abridging the freedom of any individual" including students, faculty, staff and guests.

This is timely after the incidents at U.C. Berkeley last week, when the campus was damaged by riots after a right wing speaker was scheduled to speak on campus.

"When there is dialogue, when there is respect for differing opinions, that is when the university is a better place, it comes together as a community. We respect differing opinions, so hopefully nothing like that will ever happen here at James Madison," said Bill Wyatt, the James Madison University spokesperson.

Landes said in a statement, "The legislation is an expansion of existing code to protect those who otherwise were not included."

He also mentioned instances nationwide, where free speech has been infringed.

Here is Del. Steve Landes' full statement on the bill:

“House Bill 1401 prohibits public institutions of higher education from abridging the freedom of any individual, including enrolled students, faculty and other employees, and invited guests, to speak on campus, except as otherwise permitted by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. I introduced this bill to ensure our institutions of higher education encourage healthy debate and prevent censorship of contrary viewpoints or perceived controversial speech. The legislation is an expansion of existing code to protect those who otherwise were not included. There have been instances nationwide where free speech has been infringed. While free speech on college campuses is theoretically protected by the First Amendment, there have been instances where it has been suppressed. This legislation will safeguard speech on our campuses and guarantee that our students are exposed to a wide variety of ideas and opinions and afforded the opportunity to express themselves as well.”
-Del. R. Steven Landes

You can read the summary of and track the bill here.