Florida Bans So-Called Campus ‘Free Speech Zones’

Rob Shimshock | Education Reporter

Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill Sunday eliminating “free speech zones,” which are known for restricting free speech on campuses to a certain location.

SB 4, which also enables students to levy state lawsuits against public universities that violate students’ rights to expression, cleared the Florida Senate in a 33-5 vote after passing the state House in an 84-28 vote, reported the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a free speech nonprofit group.

“Students at public colleges and universities in Florida should not have their free speech quarantined by overly restrictive policies,” FIRE legislative and policy director Joe Cohn said in a press release. “Now that Florida’s Campus Free Expression Act is law, these egregious policies of censorship must be rescinded immediately.”

Florida is the ninth state to ban “free speech zones” and FIRE’s executive director Robert Shibley mentioned in a press release his hope that the U.S. would proceed with a nationwide ban on the policies restricting student speech.

FIRE has cataloged how friendly 13 Florida universities are to free speech, judging them with a colored system in which a green light signifies a full embrace of free speech and a red light indicates significant resistance in terms of policies. The nonprofit rates the University of Florida and the University of North Florida with green lights, the University of Miami and Florida State University with red lights, and the remaining seven schools with yellow lights.

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“Today is a huge victory for current and future college students across the Sunshine State who will no longer be discouraged from fully expressing their ideas and beliefs,” Demetrius Minor, Florida’s coalitions director for center-right young adult advocacy group Generation Opportunity, said in a press release. “We thank Governor Scott, as well as Speaker Corcoran, Senate President Negron, Rep. Rommel, Sen. Baxley and others who fought hard to ensure that Orwellian “free speech zones” are a thing of the past in Florida.”

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