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Becky Gerritson: It’s Time to Protect Free Speech on Campuses in Alabama

By Becky Gerritson, Executive Director, Eagle Forum of Alabama

I had the opportunity to testify before the Alabama House Education policy committee last week about the need to protect free speech on College campuses in Alabama.  Here is what I told them.

An Interesting phenomenon has taken place in this county.  Generally speaking, those born before 1980 were not as closely supervised as they are now.  Neighborhoods were safer.  Kids played outside all day and they knew to come home when the street lights came on.  When kids had disagreements with each other they learned to work it out.

During the 80’s we saw a shift in the way American parents raised their kids.   Kids were under constant supervision.

When a child’s feelings were hurt, they would run to the adult who would comfort and protect them.  This form of conflict resolution has followed these kids into their college experiences and beyond.

Many, when confronted with ideas they don’t like or that may be foreign to them are quick to run the adult or rather a bureaucracy or an agency to protect their feelings and punish the offender.

This is evidenced by the rise in shout-downs, trigger warnings, bias response teams, free speech zones, safe spaces, class invasions and meeting disruptions on college campuses nation-wide.

This is a disturbing trend. Unfortunately, university policies are somewhat responsible.  Through their overbroad speech policies, students are learning to obey the doctrine of political correctness rather than striving to search for truth even if it’s uncomfortable.

It is a matter of statewide concern that all public institutions of higher education provide adequate safeguards for the First Amendment rights of students.

Rep. Fridy’s Campus Free Speech bill (HB498) is a common sense bill that will empower Alabama public university administrators to ensure that their campuses promote free, robust, and uninhibited debate and deliberation by students and faculty across the state of Alabama.

The bill will accomplish this in three ways.

First, it will eliminate overbroad and ambiguous speech policies that infringe on expression protected by the US and Alabama constitutions.

Second, it will eliminate Free-Speech-Zones.

And third, it will EMPOWER the universities to protect free expression by members of the campus community from unlawful violations by other members of the campus community.

Protecting freedom of speech at Alabama’s public colleges and universities is a first step in the direction of a much-needed revival of American education. This bill will lead the way.

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