SB 2050: Protecting free speech rights on college campuses

By Mississippi Center for Public Policy
January 16, 2020

Senate Bill 2050, sponsored by Sen. Angela Hill, would ensure free speech on college campuses by prohibiting a state university or community college from implementing a policy that violates freedom of speech, religion, or association. 

If the governor receives notice that a public university has such a policy, they shall notify the university and that school would have 30 days to show compliance before the state fiscal officer would withhold state funds. 

This, unfortunately, is needed in Mississippi.

A former student at Jones County Junior College is suing the school for infringing on his free speech rights, and the U.S. Department of Justice is supporting his suit. 

Michael Brown was stopped twice by campus police for trying to inform students about the political club he was involved with, Young Americans for Liberty, without prior authorization from the school’s administration, according to the complaint filed by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. 

Brown was stopped by campus officials early last year about an inflatable beach ball, known as a “free speech ball,” upon which students could write messages of their choice and again in the spring for polling students about marijuana legalization. 

An administrator told YAL that they weren’t permitted on campus since they hadn’t sought permission from the college.

The current regulations at JCJC require at least three days’ notice to administrators before “gathering for any purpose.” The student handbook also puts even more restrictions on college-connected student organizations, which must schedule their events through the vice president of student affairs. The school administration also reserves the right, according to the handbook, to not schedule a speaker or an activity.

The DOJ statement says that these restrictions operate as a prior restraint on student speech and contain no exception for individuals or small groups, and grant school officials unbridled discretion to determine about what students may speak.

MCPP has reviewed this legislation and finds that it is aligned with our principles and therefore should be supported. 

Read the bill here.

Track the status of this bill and all bills in our legislative tracker


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