PROGRESS: Bill to prohibit campus ‘free speech zones’ introduced in U.S. Senate.

Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah announced that he was introducing legislation to protect free speech on campus. The bill, called the “Free Right to Expression in Education Act,” would prohibit public institutions of higher education from quarantining free expression into small, misleadingly labeled “free speech zones” on their campuses. If enacted, the measure would free tens of thousands of public university students from these restrictive, unconstitutional zones.

The Free Right to Expression in Education Act states, in part:

Each public institution of higher education . . . may not prohibit . . . a person from freely engaging in noncommercial expressive activity in an outdoor area on the institution’s campus if the person’s conduct is lawful.

The bill would allow universities to “enforce reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions” on speech occurring in the open, outdoor areas of the public, but those restrictions would need to follow applicable standards set by the Supreme Court.

It should provide for $25,000 in statutory damages, plus attorney’s fees, for each offense.