DENVER — Colorado’s publicly-funded colleges and universities are about to get a loud and clear message from lawmakers about the importance of protecting free speech on campus, thanks to a bill, authored by Jefferson County Republican Senator Tim Neville, gaining bipartisan momentum as it heads to the Governor’s desk.
Senate Bill 62 prohibits public colleges from restricting any students first amendment rights to free speech in any way in a public forum, unless the restrictions are reasonable, serving significant government purpose, and do not limit freedom of expression. Free speech includes speaking, distributing materials, or holding a sign.
The measure began the session with potential controversy written all over it, given recent national media attention garnered by campus speech codes and protests. But Neville and other backers eventually won it widespread bipartisan backing, through a willingness to make reasonable modifications in response to stakeholder concerns, culminating in Tuesday’s unanimous “yes” vote by the House.
“Bipartisan support for this bill demonstrates that Coloradans of all political stripes agree on at least one thing, which is that free speech on campus is a core value that must be protected,” Neville said following the House vote. “This bill allows the opportunity for all voices and opinions to be heard on campus, while permitting colleges and universities to focus on their primary mission of educating students.”
A minor technical amendment in the House bill needs to be approved by the Senate. Then SB-62 will be headed to the Governor for an expected signature.