Mississippians support campus free speech legislation

By Aaron Rice
February 4, 2019

Most Mississippians want a law ensuring free speech on college campuses throughout the state.

According to new polling from Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy, 83 percent of Mississippi voters support a law that “would protect speech for all college students, even if others disagree with their point of view.”

“The last place on earth we should expect to see free speech weakened is on a college campus,” said Jon Pritchett, President and CEO of Mississippi Center for Public Policy. “Part of an essential education in the West includes learning to tolerate speech with which you may disagree. And it is clear that most Mississippians agree.”

This law has broad public support in every corner of the state. Seventy-eight percent of Democrats, 88 percent of Republicans, and 80 percent of independents support the law.

Legislation protecting free speech has been introduced in both the Senate and the House. Senate Bill 2495 has been introduced by Sen. Angela Hill (R-Picayune) and is awaiting action in the Universities and Colleges committee. Rep. Stacey Wilkes (R-Picayune) has introduced House Bill 1562, which has been referred to the House Universities and Colleges committee. These bills reflect current First Amendment case law and will protect Mississippi institutions from needless litigation.

The bills must pass out of committee by Tuesday, February 5, to stay alive.

To date, governors in 10 states – both Republicans and Democrats – have signed similar campus free speech legislation. This includes two of Mississippi’s neighbors, Louisiana and Tennessee. As of last year, legislation had been introduced in another 15 states.

Campus free speech bills are popular with voters because of the growing number of colleges and universities that have lost sight of freedom of speech for all students. Many university policies that hinder free speech are unconstitutional. These include the creation of “free speech zones” and “free speech corners,” which limit speech to certain areas on campus, as well as vague policies that require university permission for meetings and demonstrations that meet legal standards of reasonability.

Full poll results can be found here.


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