Free Speech: A real option or a pipe dream?
By Ramblin’ Rose

The South Dakota legislature passed HB 1087 this session, and last week, the Board of Regents approved three free speech policies for its campuses.

According to the National Review, “The bill, S.D. 1087, requires public institutions of higher education in the state to ‘maintain a commitment to the principles of free expression’ and to foster civil, intellectually diverse environments. It protects student organizations from viewpoint discrimination, requires an annual report to the legislature on campus intellectual diversity and speech suppression, and safeguards the use of outdoor spaces as forums for free speech.”

The bill was not supported by the educational system, including leaders of student government. The governor signed the bill into law in March, 2019.

The modifications approved by the Board of Regents on August 8 and 9, 2019, require:

  1. Funding for student organizations be made in a “nondiscriminatory manner.”
  2. Public universities will provide a report to the executive director of the Board of Regents about the ways in which the institutions are working to “promote and ensure intellectual diversity.”
  3. That report must also include any campus events that “impeded intellectual diversity and the free exchange of ideas.”

Some recent events that precipitated this legislation include:

  1. USD prohibited in 2015 of the viewing of a film on the “honor killing” of women in Islamic cultures as anti-Muslim bigotry.
  2. In 2018, university officials removed an American flag that a SDSU student had hung in his dorm to commemorate family friends who had died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
  3. Last February, USD administrators “urged” a change of name for a campus “Hawaiian Day” observance because they determined it was insensitive to indigenous Hawaiians.

Political fights continue around this issue. More than two dozen states have introduced “free speech” legislation (including Minnesota); more than a dozen of those have those bills signed into law (not Minnesota).

As a skeptic, I wonder about the impact that these laws will have on campuses. Since the majority of faculty members and administrators are left-leaning liberals, will they implement the laws? Will they hire conservative faculty? Liberal professors outnumber conservatives across the nation by five to one; in the humanities and social sciences, the disparity is even greater. That affects the research that is approved/allowed and the ideologies presented as “truth” in classes. I know that students must respond as the professors want or their grades are affected. Walking the halls of institutions of higher learning, one hears the left-wing lies presented as valid facts. Students must accept and regurgitate those views or fail the courses. Young minds are susceptible, and many are quickly converted. Brave souls are dismissed or rebuked—students and faculty.

Heterodox Academy, a non-partisan collaborative of more than 2,500 professors, administrators, and graduate students, espouses that “Intellectual diversity (or viewpoint diversity) occurs when members of a community approach problems and questions from a range of perspectives. An open expressive climate exists when members of a community, regardless of their beliefs, perspectives, or other prior commitments, feel equally able to ask questions, share ideas, and otherwise participate in learning and knowledge production without risk of censure.”

I question if legislation can accomplish that when liberalism is so engrained in all levels of education and solidly in control of higher education in every state. Will the First Amendment be honored in education, or will PC dogma continue to dominate?

God help education, learners and teachers express the truth and debate differing points of view with civility.

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