Conflict over campus carry and free speech grows
- A debate over gun rights in Texas has been a key part of a back-and-forth debate over another bill of rights issue — free speech.
- The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that a public debate among state officials, the president of the University of Texas at Austin and faculty members has been ongoing since the faculty members filed suit in 2016 claiming that the state's campus carry law violated their right to free speech because it would threaten debate in the classroom about sensitive issues. A federal district court ruled against the faculty members and in favor of the plaintiffs, the state and university, last year. The faculty members appealed and that court has not been made a ruling.
- The state attorney general has sided with the UT with regard to the issue, but university officials appeared to distance themselves from that office's stance and, according to the Chronicle, said that "the principle of freedom remained central to the campus".
American Association of University Professors' top attorney told the Chronicle that the case law in support of academic freedom for faculty members is clear, and that it was unusual to see the opposite position argued in briefs representing a university. But state and university attorneys said the right to academic freedom, "belongs to the institution, not the individual professor". Assuming a right to academic freedom exists, it cannot help plaintiffs, because it is not their right to assert," their brief said.
Meanwhile, a law school dean and former college president who argued a free speech case before the supreme court, told a group of college attorneys recently that the law surrounding free speech on campus is not simplistic and there are wide ranging ideas about its meaning.
Freedom of Speech issues, especially related to professors airing their views, are increasingly evident on college campuses and, according to one report, nine states have passed have passed campus free-speech legislation, and 16 have it under consideration.
One of the more visible issues lately has involved a Marquette professor's right to criticize a graduate student by name in a blog post. However, others have involved a group University Michigan students who sued the university over what they said was unfair fees charged to them because they were hosting a controversial conservative speaker, and a professor who criticized former first lady Barbara Bush as racist.