Per New Law, Arizona University Reps Meet To Discuss Campus Free Speech

By Casey Kuhn
Published: Tuesday, August 7, 2018 - 5:26pm
Updated: Tuesday, August 7, 2018 - 5:42pm

A committee for free expression on state university campuses met for the first time Tuesday.

The meeting brought together members from a 15-person committee spanning across Arizona, to discuss a report on what higher education is doing to support free speech.

The report and committee comes from a new state law. The conservative-authored legislation is meant to ensure that speakers of all ideologies, some of whom have had events canceled due to protests, are allowed to speak on Arizona campuses.

Counsel to the board of regents Nancy Tribbensee says the report will show about 33 different current policies.

“The report we will send you as a draft as to what is already being done on campus to protect and promote free speech," Tribbensee said at the meeting. "We have a lot of speech on campus. We are all about speech.”

Gathered via telephone were a variety of campus representatives. That included David Schmitz, philosophy professor at the University of Arizona. 

"What are the dimensions of diversity that we're concerned about?" Schmitz asked. "Other colleges, not in Arizona that I know of, but where visiting speakers weren't allowed to speak: is that the kind of headline news situation that we're worried about? Or are we also here to talk about things that may be way more subtle than that?"

Schmitz also asked whether other people on campus, like women in classrooms, would be given similiar consideration if they felt intimidated in a classroom.

Tribbensee responded saying the initial report won't go that deep, but the topics could come back for discussion at another meeting down the road. 

University of Arizona Assistant Chief of Police Bob Sommerfeld suggested the committee note and evaluate events that happen regarding free speech. 

"How about including in the agenda a review of any sort of 'freedom of expression' events that have occurred during that quarter that we can look at and discuss for possible after-action and future actions to be taken?" Sommerfeld said, to a positive response. 

Tribbensee also mentioned security costs on campuses have gone up.

The new law also requires reporting and consequences for free-speech violations on campus.

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