The latest in the parade of horrors in legislative bill filing is a proposal by Sen. Kim Hammer that purports to protect free speech on campus. Its point is to usurp control of campuses as a reaction to the widespread, but not particularly well-supported belief that liberal political correctness is running rampant on campus.

It’s a little old bill — eight pages long — setting out chapter and verse on how campuses should construct free speech policies. It would not allow “free speech zones” as campuses have established, but require unlimited speech in any generally accessible area. It would prohibit denial of funds to organizations based on message. It would not allow charging fees for security.

Here’s the crux of it:

An educational institution and its administrators shall allow all students and all faculty to invite guest speakers to campus to engage in free speech regardless of the views of the guest speakers; and

An educational institution and its administrators shall not disinvite a speaker invited by a student, student organization, or faculty member because the speaker’s anticipated speech may be considered by students, faculty, administrators, government officials, or members of the public to be:

(A) Offensive;
(B) Contrary to values or norms;
(C) Dangerous in a nonphysical manner;
(D) Unwise;
(E) Hateful;
(F) Immoral;
(G) Indecent;
(H) Racist;
(I) Ugly;
(J) Awful;
(K) Demeaning of others;
(L) Unacceptable;
(M) Jarring;
(N) Unwelcome;
(O) Malevolent;
(P) Disagreeable;
(Q) Conservative;
(R) Liberal;
(S) Traditional;
(T) Radical;
(U) Communist;
(V) Fascist;
(W) Wrongheaded; or
(X) Otherwise objectionable.

Anybody could say anything anytime anyplace, in other words. Anyone who believes they were denied access could sue and win attorney’s fees.

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The legislation is the work of a conservative think tank, as the American Association of University Professors explains here. The legislation has been passed in a number of states (though vetoed in Louisiana.)

The AAUP opposes this legislation for several reasons. One is that it is advancing a political agenda under the guise of free speech. Another is that the legislation is based on a myth that free speech is under serious challenge.

Many of the most difficult issues surrounding free speech at present are about balancing unobstructed dialogue with the need to make all constituencies on campus feel included. This can, at times, be a tricky undertaking. But punitive and simplistic measures advocated by proponents of many campus free-speech bills make finding an adequate solution more difficult, not less.

The bill is a “false friend” of speech, the AAUP says — bad policy based on sound principles. The AAUP says that invoking security can be a poor excuse for stopping a speaker and it opposes speech codes.

Ultimately, however, the AAUP and the campus free-speech movement are false friends: superficial similarity masks a fundamental difference in aims. 

Hammer is no 1st Amendment advocate. He’s worked to prescribe what doctors must tell women seeking reproductive health care and moved to limit that particular constitutional right severely. He’s merely adopted some popular right-wing talking points to address a problem that doesn’t exist in Arkansas and certainly needs no eight-page solution complete with the added ability to sue in a state where the legislature just tried to take that right from people damaged by doctors, nursing homes and negligent corporations. And which is trying to shut up a judge who exercised HIS First Amendment right to both speech and religion.

This is a bit of demagoguery aimed at the perceived liberals in academia, no more or less.