Issue: House Bill 1073 sponsors want to expand free speech on South Dakota college campuses.
When The Collegian heard a bill protecting free speech on college campuses was being introduced to the South Dakota Legislature we were excited — until we researched it.
House Bill 1073 claims it will protect the free speech of South Dakota public universities by making “any outdoor areas” “public forums.” Any restrictions on the space must be “viewpoint-neutral.”
By passing the bill, it would allow a “campus community to spontaneously and contemporaneously assemble and distribute literature.”
Additionally, universities would have to publish annual reports of actions implemented to strengthen free speech on the campus.
This sounds great, except the bill is unnecessary, unclear and uninformed.
The simple fact of the matter is, freedom of speech is not under attack on South Dakota college campuses, and HB 1073 opens institutes of higher education up to frivolous litigation and imposes unnecessary standards upon them.
The South Dakota Board of Regents ensures all institutions allow “the rights of free speech and expression” and “…encourage the timely and rational discussion of topics whereby the ethical and intellectual development of the student body and general welfare of the public may be promoted,” in SDBoR policy 3:3.
Sponsors created the bill after reading an editorial in The Volante, the University of South Dakota’s student newspaper. The editorial urged the college to reconsider its free speech policies after a 2015 controversy surrounding the supposed cancellation of a film accused of being Islamophobic.
However, USD Director of Communications Tena Haraldson told the Argus Leader the movie was never canceled, but moved to a different venue. She also said the editorial referred to outdated USD policies.
The sponsors were very misinformed and unaware of current First Amendment protections and South Dakota Board of Regents policies.
We, at The Collegian, will take every opportunity to defend the First Amendment rights of students. We aren’t shy when it comes to defending speech, no matter how abhorrent that speech may be.
Students across the country and state hear ideas that make them uncomfortable or angry. They get to hear and take part in conversations involving sex, racism, cruelty and hate.
Speech that challenges students creates a full college experience and is essential for institutions of higher education. But we don’t need this bill to protect our freedom of speech. We need students, faculty, staff, Brookings community members, South Dakotans and United States citizens to use their First Amendment rights and continue to speak freely.
Stance: This bill is not needed to protect free speech, but U.S. citizens are.