DeSantis encourages universities to adopt free speech gold standard

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By: Mike Vasilinda | Capitol News Service
April 15, 2019

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) -- Governor Ron DeSantis is urging all of the state's 12 universities and 28 community and state colleges to adopt “The Chicago Statement,” which is considered the premier policy for protecting free speech on campuses.

A Gallup survey of 3,000 college students found that one in three believes that it’s okay some of the time to shout down offensive speakers.

Philosophy major Ellie MacGill believes in free speech, but agrees it’s also okay to drown out offensive speech.

“It’s their free speech too, right?” said MacGill.

“The university’s role is to really expose people to ideas with which they may disagree. You know, I think we’re showing that Florida welcomes debate. The cure for an idea that you disagree with is to point out why that idea is wrong,” said DeSantis.

Asked how students should respond to the events, like white supremacist Richard Spencer’s visit to the University of Florida, the governor says, 'don’t go.'

“If they give a speech and only eight people show up, that is really the worst, because they really feed off trying to gin people up,” said DeSantis.

FSU President John Thrasher says colleges and universities learned a lot from the University of Florida’s handling of the Spencer visit.

“What this does is say to anybody that this is a campus that is open for anybody to debate ideas,” said Thrasher.

DeSantis says part of the problem is a lack of civics education, particularly for high school students. He wants to focus on civics education as part of the solution.

In 2018, state lawmakers outlawed corralling students in free speech zones on campuses. Under the 2018 law, someone who believes a college has not protected their right to free speech can file a lawsuit for damages.



 
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