Speaking Freely at UNH: No Speech Codes on Campus

December 27, 2015

By Staff at Union Leader

Should the University System of New Hampshire challenge students, and expose them to controversial and sometimes uncomfortable ideas?

Or should it give these vulnerable young adults a safe space, free from potentially offensive speech?

That depends on whether or not the university system expects its students to learn anything.

Columnist George Will recently highlighted efforts by Purdue University to promote free speech on its campus. A freshman New Hampshire lawmaker is hoping to do the same here.

Republican Frank Edelblut, who is also running for governor, has introduced a bill based on model legislation from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). The FIRE bill would clarify that outdoor areas on state universities are public spaces, and school officials are not permitted to suppress speech based on its content.

Each school could still prevent protesters from interfering with students’ ability to study, but they could not decide which political group got to speak, or ban anyone from campus just because a thin-skinned student might get offended.

FIRE grades colleges on their speech codes. Plymouth State University gets a green light, while Keene and UNH get red lights.

The First Amendment already protects speech at public universities, so Edelblut’s bill shouldn’t be necessary. But it is, so long as colleges put political correctness ahead of intellectual debate.

Schools: Plymouth State University Purdue University