1AP’s 3 Things to Know–Campus 1st Amendment Legislation (FORUM Act)
- Across the United States, the 1st Amendment rights of students are being violated on campus. Public colleges and universities are subject to the 1st Amendment, but they don’t always uphold their constitutional responsibility to ensure the free speech and association rights of their students. This has included: cancelling events with controversial speakers, decertifying campus clubs and denying them access to student activity resources, and punishing students who hold signs or hand out flyers outside of miniscule “free speech zones.” Students are being punished for what they believe and say, often in a way that specifically targets unfavored opinions or groups. Some examples are clubs that support ending abortion, practicing and teaching Christianity, and legalizing marijuana.
- To combat this issue, legislators are introducing state legislation that protects the rights of students to speak and associate freely. Many students have been forced to file lawsuits to assert their constitutional rights, some for things as absurd as handing out pocket-sized copies of the U.S. Constitution! These lawsuits are time-consuming and expensive; college students should be focused on academics and extracurriculars, not legal proceedings. So legislators are passing common-sense legislation that clarifies student protections and makes it less likely that universities will violate these rights.
- Isn’t the First Amendment enough? NO. This type of legislation reaffirms rights granted through the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, while fleshing out some of the details like which constitutional standards apply and what remedies are available to students whose rights have been violated. When a state passes these protections as state legislation, they significantly decreased the likelihood that colleges and universities will violate these much more specific protections. They also establish a common practice that is then often mirrored at private universities who are not subject to the same constitutional constraints. To ensure students rights are protected on campus, states should pass laws that uphold the rights to free speech and association.