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Amended version of campus free speech bill passes Senate

An amended version of a campus free speech bill passed in the North Dakota Senate Thursday afternoon. Senate Bill 2320, which was introduced by Sen. Ray Holmberg, R-Grand Forks, was previously six pages long and laid out specific regulations surr...

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North Dakota State Capitol. (Korrie Wenzel/Grand Forks Herald)
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An amended version of a campus free speech bill passed in the North Dakota Senate Thursday afternoon.

Senate Bill 2320, which was introduced by Sen. Ray Holmberg, R-Grand Forks, was previously six pages long and laid out specific regulations surrounding guest speakers at North Dakota University System campuses. The amended bill is now just two pages long and contains broader language.

It passed 35-10, with two senators who did not vote.

Now the bill states that the State Board of Higher Education and each institution will adopt a policy that protects students' rights to free speech, assembly and expression and permits institutions to establish and enforce "reasonable and constitutional time, place, and manner" restrictions on free speech, assembly and expression.

The bill also would require that the policy permits students, faculty, or student organizations to "invite guest speakers or groups to present regardless of the viewpoint or content of the anticipated speech of the guest speaker or group."

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Finally, the policy must also protect the academic freedom and free speech rights of faculty, "while adhering to guidelines established by the American Association of University Professors."

Sen. Erin Oban, D-Bismarck, spoke on behalf of the bill Thursday afternoon. She said from 2014 to 2018 there have been zero complaints related to alleged violations of First Amendment rights and only one informal concern brought forward, which was addressed and resolved the next day.

"Though we don't feel this is actually an issue in our state versus perhaps other states where you might hear some controversy, we all feel strongly that the State Board should provide clear and uniform policies that cover all of our campuses," she said.

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