By Devin Negrete at St. Joseph Channel, an ABC affiliate
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. A new bill signed by Governor Jay Nixon is giving college students more freedom to speak their mind.
Tuesday Governor Nixon passed the Campus Free Expression Act (CAFE ACT). The bill prohibits the restriction of speech in out-of-the-way free speech zones at all public Missouri Colleges and Universities.
“Since free speech is one of our rights you would think that when you pay to go somewhere that you have that same right,” said Missouri Western student, Callie Paught.
“What this does is it puts in a law that we have to give people free speech rights on campus,” said Missouri Western attorney, Tim Kissock.
Members of FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, who worked to pass the bill say one in six public colleges in the United States use free speech zones to restrict students speech. These are designated areas on campus and some have time limits. One of those schools is the University of Missouri.
“There’s so much expression in college and college is really a great place for people to find themselves and without being able to express yourself, especially through speech, then people wouldn’t really find themselves as a person,” Missouri Western student, Landon Houghton said.
Missouri Western’s attorney Tim Kissock says the school has always supported freedom of speech.
“At Missouri Western we have never initiated any action against student free speech.” Kissock said. “We’ve always promoted it as much as we can.”
“Missouri Western went ahead and took initiative to be free speech everywhere than just have free speech zones especially with how diverse we try to be here on campus,” Houghton said.
Members of FIRE say opening up campuses for free speech is an important step towards ensuring that colleges and universities continue to produce robust debates and discussions necessary for learning.
The CAFE Act passed by a unanimous vote. Missouri and Virginia are now the only states with statutes that prevent public colleges from limiting expressive activities through overly restrictive free speech zones on their campuses.