Editor’s Note: This story was updated to clarify that bill had only passed through the Senate, and that it still requires approval from the Ohio House and governor before going into law.
The Ohio State Senate passed a new bill on campus speech on January 28th that would prohibit free speech zones, and the imposition of extra security fees based on the controversial nature of the speaker’s expression.
The bill, which passed unanimously, also requires public universities to submit and make publicly available a report detailing any incidents “of disruption of free expression occurring on campus,” such as attempts by students to shut down speakers or attempts by the administration to investigate a student because of their speech.
Also referred to as the Forming Open and Robust University Minds (FORUM) Act, the Ohio legislation is part of a wave of state bills aimed at strengthening speech protections for students at public colleges and universities. In Ohio, the bill would have the added effect of striking down an old statue that allowed universities to prohibit communist groups from using school property.
However, not everyone thinks the bill is a good idea. According to reporting by The Columbus Dispatch, David Jackson, a member of the American Association of University Professors, argues that university’s may need more money to provide extra security for a controversial speaker.
“There is a substantial difference between banning an idea and disallowing a controversial speaker that would cause massive disruption and create crowds that campus police could not control,” Jackson said in a written testimony against the proposal. The testimony was cited in The Columbus Dispatch in an article titled “Ohio colleges could no longer ban controversial speakers, set up free speech zones under bill.”
According to The Ohio Senate website, the bill will now be sent to the House for further consideration.