Bill of the Day: Representative Shanks Seeks to Protect Free Speech on College Campuses with FORUM Act | Mississippi Politics and News
Y’all Politics brings you a Bill of the Day from the Mississippi Legislature that just might pique your interest.
Freedom of speech on college campuses has been a hotly debated topic across the country in recent years. Some university officials have attempted to stifle conservative voices and prevent right-wing organizations from engaging in public discourse on higher education campuses.
State Representative Fred Shanks (R) drafted a bill that would ensure a level playing field in Mississippi.
HB 164, titled “Forming Open and Robust University Minds (FORUM) Act”, seeks to prohibit higher education institutions in Mississippi from denying religious, political or ideological student organizations a benefit or privilege available to another student organization, or otherwise discriminate against such an organization based on its expression.
The bill would require colleges and universities in Mississippi to develop and make available materials explaining the policy to staff and students on their campuses. It further requires that these institutions submit an annual report detailing the measures taken to implement and comply with this policy.
“Expression activities protected by the provisions of this law include, without limitation, any lawful verbal, written, audiovisual or electronic means by which individuals can communicate ideas to each other, including all forms of peaceful assembly. , protest, speeches and guest speakers, the distribution of literature, the carrying of signs and the circulation of petitions, ”says the bill.
Representative Shanks’ Bill outlines the penalties for colleges and universities that violate this law, noting that a person or student organization can take legal action within one year of the violation against that public educational institution. superior and its employees acting in an official capacity, responsible for the breach and seek appropriate redress, including, but not limited to, injunction, damages, reasonable attorney fees and court costs.
“If a court finds a violation of this law, it must award a sum of at least five thousand dollars ($ 5,000.00),” says the bill. Any person or student organization harmed by a violation of this law may assert such violation as a defense or counterclaim in any disciplinary action or in any civil or administrative proceeding brought against such student or student organization. Nothing in this section should be construed as limiting any other remedies available to any person or student organization.
You can read the full version of HB 164 here.