SALT LAKE CITY — A resolution that affirms the civil liberties of students at Utah's public colleges and universities was unanimously endorsed by the Utah Legislature's Senate Education Committee on Tuesday.
SCR3, sponsored by seemingly unlikely political allies Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, and Rep. Kim Coleman, R-West Jordan, "strongly encourages state institutions of higher education to vigorously defend the civil liberties of students through policies that ensure the protection of constitutional rights."
The nonbinding resolution recommends that state colleges and universities "each develop an appeal process for cases in which the institution's policies are challenged for failing to protect a student's rights."
Coleman said the resolution codifies the bedrock principle of free speech on state college campuses.
"I think this is a great place to start," she said.
Spencer Jenkins, assistant commissioner for the Utah System of Higher Education, spoke in favor of the resolution.
But Brad Asay, president of American Federation of Teachers Utah, cautioned that some groups could use the resolution to support civil actions.
"Our concern is, what is this going to open up?" Asay said.
Sen. Deidre Henderson, R-Spanish Fork, responded: "Is speech only OK with (the American Federation of Teachers) if you agree with it?"1 comment on this story
Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, said the definition of civil liberties could be "pretty broad."
If the legislation created statute, "I'd be much more concerned about it,” he said.
“It’s a resolution. I guess higher ed can figure out what it means,” Hillyard said.
Dabakis said it's important for the Legislature to stand up for First Amendment protections on college campuses.
“We don’t want campuses full of people that are only hearing rebounds of their own philosophical ideas,” he said.