CA lawmaker takes aim at campus speech restrictions

With the recent tide of censorship and free speech restrictions sweeping colleges across the country, one California lawmaker has had enough.

In a press release Monday, recently-elected California Assemblyman Kevin Kiley called for more intellectual diversity and discourse in the face of increased speech restrictions at California universities.

“California’s universities are a world-class asset,” he observed. “If they are to fulfill their full potential as centers of innovation and academic excellence, we must encourage a diversity of ideas and ensure differing viewpoints are protected.”

The press release also cites the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s recent report on speech codes, which in part addresses the rise of bias response teams, which FIRE believes are detrimental to free speech.

[RELATED: REPORT: Universities grudgingly abandon speech restrictions]

“We should be vigilant in ensuring that even well-intentioned policies do not inadvertently serve to limit free speech,” Kiley remarks. “I am looking forward to working with university leaders, student groups, faculty, and other stakeholders to promote diversity of thought, free expression, and an open exchange of ideas on our state’s college campuses.”

Kiley also praises University of California president Janet Napolitano, who wrote an October op-ed in The Boston Globe defending free speech, saying, “As president of the University of California system, I write to show how far we have moved from freedom of speech on campuses to freedom from speech.”

William Kolkey, a spokesman for Assemblyman Kiley, told Campus Reform that Kiley’s plan is primarily about “encouraging California public universities to review the findings of the [FIRE] report and work to ensure that their policies do not violate the First Amendment.”

[RELATED: You won’t find safe spaces here, UC dean tells freshmen]

“Assemblyman Kiley will work with California’s red-rated universities to craft policies similar to the free speech statement by the University of Chicago, a version of which is now being used by 19 other universities or faculty bodies,” Kolkey explained. “The Chicago Statement sets clear standards against bullying and harassment and protects important university values without infringing students’ First Amendment Rights,” said Kolkey.

[RELATED: University of Chicago held up as national model for free speech]

Kiley’s statement on the preservation of free speech echoes the recent sentiments of many in academia, including Rutger University President Robert Bachi, Purdue University President Mitch Daniels, and University of Chicago Dean of Students John Ellison.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @ChrisNuelle