CSU students lobby for Colorado bill to expand free speech on campus

Stuart Smith

Juan Caro and Emily Faulkner, students at Colorado State University, visited Capitol Building in Denver to advocate for State Senate Bill 62 on Thursday.

The bill would eliminate Free Speech areas on college campuses in Colorado, instead making entire campuses Free Speech zones. In the places where the Free Speech zones originally were, monuments to the First Amendment would be erected.

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The bill would also allow students to take their college or university to court if they felt their right to free speech had been violated, but they would not be able to collect any monetary damages.

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CSU student stand in the Capitol building while waiting for to give their testimonies for Senate Bill 62 (Photo courtesy of Juan Caro)

According to Caro, the bill was unanimously passed through the Education Committee on Thursday.

Caro and Faulkner are the Chairman and and Vice Chairwoman of the Conservative Interest Group of Colorado, and are were organizers of the Free Speech Wall that was built on the plaza last October.

Caro talked about the riot at UC Berkeley from Wednesday night in his testimony, citing them as a reason to get rid of free-speech zones.

“(Those) riots are cultural issue, not a legislative issue,” he said. “We will continue to see riots with the current political situation with or without safe spaces.”

In a phone interview with the Collegian, he expanded on this.

“What we realized,” he said, “is that these safe spaces don’t work, and if there’s going to be a riot like we saw at Berkeley, there’s going to be a riot whether there’s an imaginary line, or a free-speech zone, or there’s not.”

“What we’re arguing,” Caro continued, “is because of the fear of these riots, and of the retaliation, we’ve ended up surrendering our rights… and we’ve been given these Free Speech zones, safe spaces, which are unconstitutional.”

With the bill, Caro hopes “to get that right back, and to abolish safe spaces, because they were not the solution to the problem.”

“College campuses should be the epitome of free speech,” his testimony continued. “They should encourage the free flow of ideas, not limit them to safe spaces and suppress them.”

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Faulkner is also the president of CSU Students for Life, which filed a lawsuit against the University when the University denied a Diversity Grant to the group when they brought a pro-life speaker on campus for a presentation.

Faulkner said that her advocating for the bill was not directly related to the lawsuit, but that it was important to talk about.

“For free speech issues, once you start taking away little rights at a time, you end up getting on a really slippery slope,” she said. “I did talk a little bit about my lawsuit. Although it didn’t directly pertain to it, it is a free speech lawsuit.”

According to the bill’s co-sponsor Sen. Tim Neville, R-Littleton, the bill is “critical to our public higher education institutions’ mission as a place of learning and marketplace of ideas.”

In the Denver Post, Neville said that the existence of Free Speech zones “spreads the incorrect idea that our students should limit their speech to confined areas,” when entire campuses, not specific areas, should be open to free speech.

Neville also said that the bill would not intrude on classroom discussions, and that it would also not prevent campuses from restricting and monitoring groups not associated with the college or university.

Collegian reporter Stuart Smith can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @notstuartsmith.