post written by Mira Soni, First Amendment Center Intern
Democrat Nicolas Tomas and Republican state senator Jim Nielsen have worked together to put forward a bill ending “Free Speech Zones” on the campuses of public universities in California. Tomas settled his own lawsuit against Cal Poly Pomona two years ago after he was told he was not allowed to hand out “pro-vegan leaflets” outside of a designated zone.
“The motivation is just to ensure there truly is free speech on our campuses in California,” Nielsen said. Nielsen said it was a “great irony” that California, the birthplace of the free speech movement at UC Berkeley in the 1960s, is now facing scrutiny over how students can express themselves on campus.
If it passes, SB-472 would enact the Campus Free Expression Act, thereby declaring outdoor areas of public campuses “traditional public forums” and protecting the right of individuals to assemble and distribute literature there.
Nielsen’s bill comes in the wake of student resistance to appearances by conservative commentators Ann Coulter and Milo Yiannopoulos at U.C. Berkeley earlier this year.