On February 6, the South Dakota State Legislature will begin deliberations on a bill written with the intent of promoting intellectual diversity, academic freedom, transparency, and the free exchange of ideas at the state’s public colleges and universities.
House Bill 1087 would protect those holding minority viewpoints—be they students, faculty, or even visiting speakers—from discrimination or censorship. At the same time, the bill affirms the right of protesters to have their voices heard; so long as they do so without the intent to “materially or substantially disrupt the functioning of the institution.” By opening a space for conflicting opinions to be aired, we see echoes of the powerful dissent written by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. in Abrams v. United States: “the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market.”
In December 2018, the South Dakota University System’s Board of Regents updated its bylaws with similar goals in mind. In doing so, South Dakota’s state system joined a group of over 50 institutions of higher education in embracing the ideals set forth by the Chicago Principles on Freedom of Expression. By codifying these principles into law, and with the leadership of the state’s regents and legislators, South Dakota’s colleges and universities could remain havens of free expression for years to come.
CONTACT: Doug Sprei, firstname.lastname@example.org