Free Speech on College Campuses is Fundamental to our Way of Life

Crystal Lake, IL – State Representative Allen Skillicorn has submitted a bill (HB4968) to create the Campus Free Speech and Expression Act.

Without free speech there can be no freedom of thought. The protection of free speech is fundamental to the American way of life and the foundation of our Republic. We are unique among nation’s where free speech is indelibly marked in our Constitution. As the First Amendment states, “ Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

Skillicorn stated, “Our Founders knew what they were doing when they put forth the Bill of Rights.  As James Madison once said, ‘Our First Amendment freedoms give us the right to think what we like and say what we please. And if we the people are to govern ourselves, we must have these rights, even if they are misused by a minority.’”

Benjamin Franklin, writing in The Pennsylvania Gazette, April 8, 1736, wrote of the American doctrine behind freedom of speech and of the press: “Freedom of speech is a principal pillar of a free government; when this support is taken away, the constitution of a free society is dissolved, and tyranny is erected on its ruins. Republics and limited monarchies derive their strength and vigor from a popular examination into the action of the magistrates.”

College campuses are the incubators of higher learning in our country, and as such, it is imperative for thoughts and ideas to be expressed and debated in a civil and open manner, no matter how offensive they might be. This bill requires the board of trustees of each public university and community college in this State to adopt a policy that includes a statement that (1) the primary function of an institution of higher education is the discovery, improvement, transmission, and dissemination of knowledge by means of research, teaching, discussion, and debate; (2) it is not the proper role of an institution of higher education to shield individuals from speech protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States; (3) it is the proper role of an institution of higher education to encourage diversity of thoughts, ideas, and opinions and to encourage the peaceful, respectful, and safe exercise of First Amendment rights; (4) students and faculty have the freedom to discuss any problem that presents itself, assemble, and engage in spontaneous expressive activity on campus, within the bounds of established principles of the First Amendment and subject to reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions; and (5) the outdoor areas of campus of an institution of higher education are public forums open on the same terms to any invited speaker, subject to reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions. Sets forth provisions concerning activities that are protected under the Act, deeming the outdoor areas of campuses public forums on campus, freedom of association, remedies, a statute of limitations, and immunity.