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Colorado senate advances bill to let free speech go free-range on campus

Author: Dan Njegomir - February 2, 2017 - Updated: June 6, 2017

Republican state Sen. Tim Neville of Littleton says it’s wrong to confine college students’ views to “free speech zones” on Colorado campuses. Neville’s Senate Bill 62, approved today by the Senate Education committee, would set them free.

The measure now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

Said Neville in a press release from the Senate GOP this afternoon:

“Free speech zones are counterintuitive to our core values. We should never falter in our defense of our constitutional rights or confine a free exchange of ideas…Students on Colorado campuses are growing into the leaders of tomorrow, and restricting their fundamental rights as they seek out truth and knowledge is contrary to the American spirit as well as the mission of universities.”

College brass have expressed some muted reservations about the proposal.

University of Colorado spokesman Ken McConnellogue told The Denver Post’s Monte Whaley: “The university has demonstrated a fundamental commitment to the free speech that is essential to our mission, but it is also incumbent upon us to maintain the safety and integrity of the learning environment for all our students.”

Which probably means they fear a riot when young campus firebrands of opposing views aren’t cordoned off from one another.

Whatever the merits of that concern, it’s worth noting that the Senate Education Committee unanimously approved the staunchly conservative Neville’s bill. That suggests that if the legislation passes out of the Republican-run Senate as now appears likely, it also might not get spiked the moment it enters the Democratic-controlled House.

And however it fares, it’s worth taking in the big picture here for a moment: When a right-as-they-come Republican takes a stand for free speech on campus — it ain’t your grandad’s GOP anymore.

 

Dan Njegomir

Dan Njegomir

Dan Njegomir is the opinion editor for Colorado Politics. A longtime journalist and more-than-25-year veteran of the Colorado political scene, Njegomir has been an award-winning newspaper reporter, an editorial page editor, a senior legislative staffer at the State Capitol and a political consultant.