COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) – A panel of South Carolina lawmakers listened to supporters and critics of a bill Tuesday afternoon that would ban “free speech zones” on public college campuses.
The legislation would prohibit schools from establishing designated locations for demonstrations and instead would allow all outdoor areas of state college campuses to be considered public forums.
Under the measure, school officials would still be able to maintain and enforce certain rules for demonstrations.
Josh Malkin with the ACLU of South Carolina said they support the legislation.
“There are constitutional policies that should transcend political ideology,” said Malkin. “The right to disagree is fundamentally American.”
A handful of college students spoke to the House Education and Public Works subcommittee in support of the legislation.
“It really shouldn’t matter what political organization you’re a part of or what side of the aisle that organization supports,” said Taylor Rogers, Turning Point USA at Clemson president. “All should have the right to free speech.”
Critics of the bill said they support the intent of the legislation but lawmakers should ensure it’s tailored towards students and student groups and not so much outside organizations.
Miles Coleman, a partner at Nelson Mullins, expressed concerns surrounding unintended consequences.
“The act would blur the distinction between student speech and the public,” said Coleman. “It does so by transforming the campus as a traditional public forum.”
Coleman told lawmakers he works closely with Clemson University on first amendment matters.
The subcommittee did not take any action on the bill Tuesday but said they will mull over possible changes before advancing it to the full committee.