Letter: Lawmakers must protect free speech


Ingrid Jacques’ column regarding free speech on campus (“How to keep campus speech free,” May 21) makes the important point that we need to put “administrators on notice” about the perilous state of free expression on campus. But without consequences for inaction, why would universities do anything differently?

The campus community—from students to faculty to staff and beyond—needs more than idle threats that if administrators don’t protect free speech, someone, somewhere will do something. Two bills before Michigan lawmakers give “any person lawfully present on campus the right to protest” but create sanctions for those who interfere with this right.

When one person’s speech or demonstration drowns out someone else’s, such expression becomes oppressive. Clear due process protections for the accused are included in the bill, including notice of when a disciplinary hearing will be held and the right to review the evidence. Both sides—protesters and supporters of a controversial speaker or idea—should have their rights protected, and that’s what this legislation does.

University systems have proved they are not able to protect free speech, making it lawmakers’ responsibility protect this critical freedom. More of the same should not satisfy anyone on campus.

Jonathan Butcher

Education director, Goldwater Institute