Legislation touted as a way to prevent controversial speakers from being shouted down at Louisiana colleges and universities failed Thursday in the state House.
House Republican Caucus Chairman Lance Harris, R-Alexandria, sponsor of the bill, noted that nationally some campuses have erupted over speakers invited by faculty and organizations, especially conservatives.
"In some instances around the United States, universities are actually capitulating to those threats and capitulating to those acts and closing off the free exchange of ideas that are so critical for our students to have," Harris told the House.
"Unfortunately in America today, there are those in society trying to limit our expression of ideas and free speech in higher education," he said.
The 105-member House was missing some members during a rare, late Thursday afternoon session.
A bill aimed at ensuring free speech on Louisiana campuses, and penalizing students who disr…
The sponsor has the option of again trying to win House approval.
Harris was peppered with questions on why the bill is needed if Louisiana has avoided showdowns over controversial speakers, like the University of California at Berkeley experienced.
Rep. Rob Shadoin, R-Ruston, said he has heard nothing from officials at two universities in his area – Louisiana Tech and Grambling – about the need for action.
"Do we really need any more enforcement that allows colleges to do what they already do?" Shadoin asked.
Rep. Sam Jones, D-Franklin, questioned why the First Amendment is not adequate to prevent campus disruptions.
Harris acknowledged that LSU and other state colleges and universities have avoided controversy.
"LSU has an excellent record of protecting freedom of speech," he said.
However, Harris said he has received emails from students and faculty who say such a law is needed in Louisiana.
The bill would have required school management boards to spell out policies governing free speech, disruptions and sanctions that could follow.
"Protests and demonstrations that infringe upon the rights of others to engage in or listen to expressive activity shall not be permitted and shall be subject to sanction,"according to the bill.
Violators would have faced up to a one-year suspension or expulsion for multiple violations.