LIVE at 10 A.m.: Did North Dakota Campuses Need New Free Speech Protections? Higher Education Officials Didn’t Think So


North Dakota Girls Staters make their away across campus at UND Monday for a morning session at the annual event this week at UND. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Recently Governor Doug Burgum signed House Bill 1503 into law. Previous to that, it passed 65 – 29 in the House and 35 – 12 in the Senate.

It’s aim? To protect free speech on North Dakota’s campuses.

At the national level we’ve all heard many stories about students who, whether it’s because of campus administration or harassment from other students, have difficulty expressing controversial points of view.

Was that a problem in North Dakota?

Was this bill necessary?

Leadership in the North Dakota University System didn’t think so.

“Despite the fact that our campuses have not encountered any substantiated cases of restrictions being placed on free speech, have had no speakers shouted down, no visitors assaulted, no ‘disinvited’ speakers, and no student complaints for at least the last 12 years, which is remarkable in the current political environment, there are still external forces that continue to perpetuate the notion that North Dakota colleges and universities are actively working against free speech and freedom of expression,” Lisa Johnson, the NDUS’s vice chancellor for academic and student affairs, said in March before the bill passed. “While that may be true of certain coastal institutions, this is simply not true of NDUS institutions.”

Tyler Coward, an attorney for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, discusses the bill, which his group supported, and explains why it was necessary to protect North Dakota’s students.

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