Prompted by recent displays of intolerance of conservative speech at the University of Minnesota, Senator Carla Nelson and Representative Bud Nornes will introduce a Campus Neutrality bill to preserve political impartiality and free speech on state-funded university campuses. The bill requires state colleges to:
- Adopt a policy that affirms the principles of free speech
- Publish the free speech policy so it is readily available to students and staff
- Define student-on-student harassment and outline disciplinary action for when it occurs
“Minnesota’s universities are where young minds search for truth, but that search requires consideration and exploration of diverse viewpoints. Students must be able to express themselves without the fear of harassment or retaliation, and that’s the protection the Campus Neutrality bill offers,” said Sen. Nelson. “Where academic freedom is absent, intellectual thought is endangered.”
“Universities are where people with diverse ideas and ideals can meet and challenge one another’s beliefs. Too often, students are losing that opportunity to challenge and be challenged,” said Rep. Nornes. “This bill preserves that right for all students, and makes them better citizens for it.”
Recent examples of institutional bias and intolerance of conservative speech at the University of Minnesota include:
- In October 2016, a bridge painted by University of Minnesota College Republicans was vandalized. The original painting included a message in support of the Republican candidate’s immigration policy.
- The University of Minnesota’s College of Education and Human Development emailed all students, calling the College Republicans’ message xenophobic, ignorant, and an act of hate.
- The Assistant Director of the Multicultural Center for Academic Excellence called the message xenophobic and racist.
- At a “campus climate” conversation, angry protesters were allowed to surround the President of the College Republicans, scream in her face, call her names, and prevent her from leaving the event.
- This year, the University of Minnesota rejected several requests for large venues to host conservative commentator Ben Shapiro on campus, despite similar venues provided for appearances by liberal speakers Al Franken and Elizabeth Warren.
The Campus Neutrality bill aims to prevent institutional bias and protect freedom of thought and expression on college campuses. Similar legislation has passed in at least five other states, including North Carolina, Colorado, Tennessee, Utah, and Virginia.