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Wednesday, November 26, 2014 | Last updated: 11:22pm

Arizona bill censoring college campuses unconstitutional



The Arizona Legislature is weighing a proposal, dubbed the “G-rated” bill, that threatens to censor Arizona’s college campuses in an attempt to clear out pottymouthed professors.

Most students in college are 18 or older, legally able to vote or buy cigarettes, lottery tickets, porn and alcohol. In other words, college students are adults. So why is the Legislature so concerned with adult content and language in college classrooms?

Republican state Sen. Lori Klein introduced Senate Bill 1467, which will affect “any person who provides classroom instruction in a public school.” If it passes, schools will be required to suspend or fire any instructor who “engages in speech or conduct that would violate the standards adopted by the Federal Communications Commission concerning obscenity, indecency and profanity if that speech were broadcast on television or radio.”

On the first offense, schools would be required to suspend the instructor for a minimum of one week. On the next offense, the suspension must last for at least two weeks. On the third offense, schools would have to terminate the instructor’s employment.

The bill affects all levels of education, from public preschool programs to state universities.

It is completely understandable that these guidelines should apply to preschool programs, kindergarten and grade schools because those students are underage and, for the most part, under the guardianship of their parents.

Regulating the freedom of speech and information in college classrooms is a different matter.

John Curtis, director of research and public policy for the American Association of University Professors, told Inside Higher Ed that the bill is “probably unconstitutional” and “seems fundamentally inconsistent with the whole idea of higher education and academic freedom.”

College is a place to grow and experience life away from parents, and this bill takes the university student and professor back to high school. What’s next? Will college students get detention for running in the halls or being late to class? How about a dress code or uniforms?

“The Canterbury Tales,” “The Catcher in the Rye,” “Ulysses” and pretty much every work by William Shakespeare would be prohibited from instruction due to the subject matter and content, according to the Huffington Post.

The bill goes further than just censoring the classroom, however. As it is written now, the legislation does not differentiate between the classroom and elsewhere, so if a professor utters an obscenity outside of the classroom, he or she could still be in jeopardy of being suspended or fired.

The Federal Communications Commission regulations inspired the bill’s guidelines, meaning anything that can’t be viewed or said on TV wouldn’t be allowed in classrooms. No one wants to go to the Disney version of college.

The First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech, and legislators should not have influence over professors’ employment status. Professors shouldn’t have to worry about offending their adult students with adult content.

Arizona legislators need to stop treating college students like children and professors like baby sitters.

— Rebecca Miller is a junior studying photography and journalism. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @WildcatOpinions.


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