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The Oklahoma House passed Senate Bill 361, legislation that supports free expression in higher education, and Gov. Stitt signed it in to law.
As it stands, so-called “free speech zones” on campus restrict speech, limiting how, when and where students exercise their First Amendment rights.
As other groups who share concern about this issue have noted:
The First Amendment firmly protects speech in public areas such as streets and parks. This is just as true on the campuses of public colleges — and for good reason. Our history is filled with examples of student demonstrations that have raised awareness about crucial issues in our society, from protesting the Vietnam War to opposing apartheid in South Africa to standing up for the rights of sexual assault survivors.
SB 361 eliminates these restrictive “speech zones” for students on their own campuses — expanding the ability for students to engage with, and learn from, new ideas, information and ways of thinking.
That’s fitting. Our colleges and universities are places of open intellectual exchange, in which students can discover new ideas in the pursuit of a dynamic and constantly-improving society.
As Deputy State Director of AFP-OK, Joey Magana, put it, “Civil discourse makes possible a thoughtful and diverse society. Our universities can provide a cornerstone of that – offering students an open intellectual environment to engage with an array of disciplines and ideas.”
SB 361 places Oklahoma universities among the nation’s leaders in modeling and promoting free expression for the next generation.
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