Sen. Colbeck discusses free speech legislation at panel discussion

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Patrick Colbeck, R-Canton, discussed his recently introduced legislation related to First Amendment protections on Thursday as part of his role on a panel discussion regarding free speech issues on college campuses.

Other panel members for the forum included Jim Manley of the Goldwater Institute; Stanley Kurtz, senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center; and Deion Kathawa with the Detroit News.

“I consistently hear from constituents that as society becomes more polarized they want to see a level of civility interjected into our public policy discussions, but when we look at what we are teaching our young people attending school they are being taught it is not only acceptable but encouraged to silence the voices and opinions of others,” Sen. Colbeck said. “The right to free speech at our universities and colleges is particularly important because it is there that many of our younger citizens first start to realize the true importance of both their individual voice and the ability to learn from the differences of others. That is why this legislation is so essential.”

Sen. Colbeck, sponsor of Senate Bills 349 and 350, discussed his bills and said they highlighted needed changes because most universities were doing little, if anything, to rectify the problem, and for those that did get involved, their policies were more akin to “freedom from speech” instead of “freedom of speech.”

Sen. Colbeck said many campuses are relegating the ability to voice opinions only to limited, so-called “free speech zones,” or creating so-called “safe zones” where certain groups are free to discuss certain topics but those of other opinions are not allowed. Sen. Colbeck’s legislation is designed in part to ensure that school policy does not attempt to play favorites, and it allows for equal access and opportunities for those expressing divergent opinions on issues.

SBs 349 and SB 350 have received a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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