John Miller at Phi Beta Cons criticizes proposed legislation in Arizona that would impose fines and lawsuits on professors who express their support for “one side of a social, political, or cultural issue that is a matter of partisan controversy.” While FIRE as an organization does not officially support or oppose legislation, bills like this one are a bad idea that, as Mr. Miller says, only serve as “speech codes for professors.” We definitely aren’t a fan of speech codes. As evidenced by Spotlight, FIRE’s enormous database of university policies affecting free speech, the majority of college campuses have onerous regulations that restrict expressive activity that should be protected under the First Amendment. Apparently, Arizona thinks the solution is to extend the trumping of free expression to the professoriate as well.
Mr. Miller’s solution to the squelching of free speech is that “the American Association of University Professors and other groups that defend the academic freedom of the tenured class should extend their principles to students, stand beside FIRE, and attack speech codes that limit free speech.” We agree. The college campus should be a place for the unfettered exchange of ideas and opinions. Efforts by legislatures and administrations to reign in free expression do a disservice to the faculty they hire and the students under their academic care.