Governor DeSantis encourages universities to adopt free speech "gold" standard

Published: Apr. 15, 2019 at 10:28 PM CDT
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Governor Ron DeSantis is urging all of the state's 12 universities and 28 community and state colleges to adopt the "Chicago Statement” which is considered the premier policy for protecting free speech on campuses.

The Governor also wants to focus on civics education as part of the solution.

A Gallup survey of 3,000 college students found that one in three believes that it’s okay some of the time to shout down offensive speakers.

Philosophy major Ellie MacGill believes in free speech, but agrees it’s also okay to drown out offensive speech.

“It’s their free speech too, right,” said MacGill.

Now, Governor Ron DeSantis has asked all of the state's colleges to sign what is known as the Chicago Statement.

“The University’s role is to really expose people to ideas with which they may disagree. You know, I think we’re showing that Florida welcomes debate. The cure for an idea that you disagree with is to point out why that idea is wrong,” said DeSantis.

Asked how students should respond to speakers like white supremacist Richard Spencer’s visit to the University of Florida, the Governor says don’t go.

“If they give a speech and only eight people show up, that is really the worst, because they really feed off trying to gin people up,” said DeSantis.

FSU President John Thrasher says colleges and universities learned a lot from the University of Florida’s handling of the Spencer visit.

“What this does is say to anybody that this is a campus that is open to anybody to debate ideas,” said Thrasher.

The Governor says part of the problem is a lack of civics education, particularly for high school students.

In 2018 state lawmakers outlawed corralling students in free speech zones on campuses. Under the 2018 law, someone who believes a college has not protected their right to free speech can file a lawsuit for damages.

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