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Gov. Hickenlooper signs bill banning ‘free speech zones’ from college campuses

Gov. Hickenlooper signed Senate Bill 62, which will eliminate free speech zones on Colorado college campuses last Tuesday. The bill is set to go into effect Aug. 9.

This bill gives college students the right to express their ideas in public areas of their campus. Previously, colleges were allowed to limit free speech to designated zones on campus.

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Expression includes peaceful assemblies, protests, political speech, petitioning, holding signs, distributing written materials and voter registration activities. It does not include soliciting activities.

According to the bill, administrators can still limit expression that disrupts prescheduled activities, including classes. Any other limitations cannot be instigated with any reference to the content of the expression being limited.

The bill was unanimously passed through the Colorado Education Committee of the state senate in February. Juan Caro and Emily Faulkner, students at Colorado State University, visited the Capitol Building in Denver to lobby for the bill.

Faulkner, a CSU senior biology major and vice chair of the Conservative Interest Group of Colorado, said free speech zones limit the ability for students to speak their minds.

“We recognize that free speech is not a bipartisan issue,” Faulkner said. “Without (the amendment) we have no right to speak our minds. Free speech zones limit when and where you can speak your mind, and that infringes on the first amendment.”

Faulkner, also the president of CSU Students for Life, filed a free speech lawsuit in January against CSU when the University denied a diversity grant to the group to bring an anti-abortion speaker to campus. Faulkner said she is excited the bill was passed.

“I hope looking to the future that this happens in all states, not just Colorado,” Faulkner said. “Campus is a marketplace of ideas and if we take those away, what are we really? If we take away free speech, then we aren’t exposed to different ideas and can’t grow.”

Some students at Colorado State University have mixed feelings about the passing of the bill.

“I like it because it flows with the constitution and the rights we’re supposed to have,” said Hannah Thorndyke, a freshman biology major at CSU. “I can see both pros and cons. For pros it’s good for people to be exposed to different opinions because it enlightens you. (A) con is some people could get their feelings hurt by (what they experience).”

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“If you allow it to be expanded to everywhere it could cause some disruption,” Karina Valadez, a freshman biology major said. “Also, if people want to hear ideas, they won’t know where to go to look for (them).”

Senior math major Madison Rhodes said the bill threatens marginalized people.

“You no longer have an area you can avoid to not hear hate speech disguised as free speech,” Rhodes said. “Marginalized people will have a voice, but people who have dominant identities will be able to push their privilege further. Now policing of campus is going to be a lot harder in terms of hate speech.”

Collegian reporter Jym Cox can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @jym2233.

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