Bill would add free speech protections for college students

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Lawmakers debated a bill Tuesday to add more free speech protections for college students.

House Bill 1503 outlines free speech principles that would have to be adopted by the State Board of Higher Education, as well as each of the state’s 11 public colleges and universities.

It would eliminate “free speech zones,” prohibit activity fee funding discrimination based on a student group’s viewpoint and allow speakers on campus regardless of their views, among other changes.

A North Dakota University System representative opposed the bill, saying it would invite lawsuits and seek to address a problem that doesn’t really exist.

But Grand Forks Rep. Claire Cory, who is a senior at the University of North Dakota, says even without records of free speech violations, it still happens.

“I do think there’s room for improvement because free speech is a really big issue. A lot of the times, people are afraid to speak out because of their grades, and they’re worried their professors are going to retaliate,” Cory said.

The House Judiciary Committee did not yet give the bill a recommendation.

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