Thursday, December 31, 2015

Lawmaker wants to boost free speech

Right idea. Wrong solution.

...with a surprise at the end.
For good reason, Rep. Meeks wants to make sure Kentucky students are able to exercise their first amendment rights of free speech. But his solution sounds to me like an invitation to students to filibuster any class at any time - effectively ending instruction - should a student choose to do so. The courts have ruled that the content of speech generally cannot be limited (with some exceptions for hate speech, incitement, yelling "fire" in a crowded theater...that sort of thing) but institutions can place reasonable limits on the time, place, and manner of that speech. That prevents individuals from disrupting class or other public meetings.  

At EKU, we have a centrally-located, open-air, free speech zone right next to the student center, which can be used by students anytime, and even by other members of the public with a little notice. And it gets used. A couple of times every year there is a preacher who takes time out of his busy schedule to come to campus and tell our students they are all going to hell. If we had no ability to restrict time, place, and manner, he could walk into any classroom and do the same thing.

That reminds me. 

In November, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray had to enforce a few time, place, and manner restrictions on a speaker during an Urban-County Council meeting. The speaker was given a few minutes to address the Council on the minimum wage issue as the Council had deemed reasonable. What happened next...well, take a peek at the cringe-worthy episode at the end of this post.
This from the Bowling Green Daily News:
Following college student protests across the country, a state lawmaker wants further protection for free speech on Kentucky’s college campuses.
Rep. Reginald Meeks, D-Louisville
“It just occurred to me that we need to be proactive on this,” said Rep. Reginald Meeks, D-Louisville.
Meeks pre-filed Bill Request 271, which would limit public postsecondary institutions’ ability to restrict student speech, for consideration in the 2016 General Assembly.
“What I would like to achieve is a modicum of facilitation of open discussion on our college campuses,” Meeks said. “I’d like to achieve a state in which our students feel valued in terms of sharing their vision.”
It’s a response to incidents across the country where colleges and universities have attempted to quash free speech, Meeks said. The issue has come up at top schools, including Harvard and Yale, he said.
In November, black football players at the University of Missouri refused to play until the university system’s president, Timothy Wolfe, was ousted. A Missouri state representative recently introduced a bill to revoke scholarships to student-athletes “who refuse to play for a reason unrelated to health,” CBS Sports reported.
For Meeks, college students have been a part of important historical uprisings like the American civil rights movement, campaigns against apartheid in South Africa, Tiananmen Square in China and the Arab Spring. That’s something that should be valued both nationally and in Kentucky, Meeks said.
BR 271 would create a new section of Kentucky Revised Statutes Chapter 164 to read that “public postsecondary education institutions shall not impose restrictions on the time, place and manner of student speech.”
The bill further elaborates that the protection extends to student speech that occurs on campus and is protected by the First Amendment. Restrictions are only warranted if they are reasonable, justified without reference to the content of the regulated speech, are narrowly tailored to serve a significant government interest and leave open ample alternative channels for communication of the information.
John Winstead of Nashville, a Western Kentucky University senior, said he’s ambivalent toward the proposed legislation. As a senator in WKU’s Student Government Association, Winstead faced a censure hearing Dec. 2 in front of the SGA’s Judicial Council for criticizing the university’s president. Winstead was not censured.
“On the one hand, I like that this legislation would narrow a public institution’s ability to restrict unfavorable speech,” Winstead said via a Facebook message. “On the other hand, this type of legislation doesn’t address the type of internal institutional intimidation that has been thrown around to scare off activists. So this bill is a step in the right direction, but is not a panacea.”

Now back to Lexington's Urban County Council.

The Most Amazing Thing Happened at Last Week’s Lexington City Council Meeting

This from Nick Roush at Kentucky Sports Radio:
In my final weeks as a UK Student News reporter, for the first time I took my talents to the Lexington City Council.  A new minimum wage ordinance is simple to understand, and it’s easy to cover because it invokes intense emotions from those on both sides of the issue.

I was hoping to see something from a scene of “Parks and Rec,” but I was let down.  My partner in crime, Rudy Salazar, was luckier than me.

Before the final vote last Thursday (which would go in favor for raising the wage), citizens took the chamber floors, speaking their piece for almost two hours.  About 30 minutes in, something magical happened.

I’ve watched it nearly a dozen times and I enjoy something different each time.  I’ll let you find them for yourself.

This Thanksgiving I’m thankful for public meetings, because no matter how boring they may be, they will not let you down.  Hopefully this lady is having a much better week and a Happy Thanksgiving.

Now it just so happens that the school administrator being...shall we say my former assistant, and Cassidy School's principal for more than a decade now. She does a fine job, and I feel very comfortable assuring everyone that neither she, nor the Fayette County Schools, inquires about any applicant's sexual practices, or lack thereof, or insists that teachers are sexually active, when making hiring decisions. But apparently they do screen out he extremely goofy.  

And I'll assume the comments are not an accurate reflection of WKU's screening process for teachers either.

Thank the court for time, place, and manner restrictions. 

Enjoy watching the audience reactions...

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