CU Boulder weighs freedom of speech and safety

Board of Regents will discuss two new policies
Posted at 8:19 AM, May 23, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-23 10:19:40-04

BOULDER, Colo. -- In a time when college campuses have struggled to find balance between free speech and safety issues, The University of Colorado says it wants to make sure it continues to bring speakers to campus who challenge students and faculty.

"Universities should be places where all manners of views are aired," says Ken McConnellogue, Vice President for Communications at the University of Colorado. "Sometimes they're controversial, sometimes they're offensive, sometimes they're just downright silly but we believe that CU campuses should be forums where these kind of things are talked about and where the best ideas can rise to the top."

On Wednesday a Board of Regents committee will discuss two proposed policies on freedom of expression for students, faculty, staff and guest speakers. Up until now, the university has only had policies regarding academic freedom, which protected faculty.

The issue has come to the forefront at CU Boulder, in recent years. A 2017 appearance by conservative pundit Milo Yiannopoulos drew a large crowd of protesters. Student groups have also invited such controversial speakers as Ann Coulter and Bobby Seale.

One policy regents will consider will require the university to uphold "viewpoint neutrality," meaning CU cannot restrict a speaker based on their message or content.

A second proposal codifies a state law passed in 2017, banning college campuses from restricting free speech to designated "zones."

An exception to that rule is speech that disrupts classes or the educational process. For example, a student speaking from a bullhorn into a classroom would not be protected speech. Administrators could also restrict a speaker if they're deemed a threat to campus security or the safety of students. 

Regents will discuss the proposals for the first time Wednesday, with discussions continuing over the summer. A final vote could come in September.