Just how far freedom of speech should go on South Dakota college campuses will be the topic of discussion at an upcoming State Board of Regents meeting.

The Regents are trying to decide how best to implement a new South Dakota freedom of speech law at colleges. The law brought about by legislative bill SD1087 goes into effect July 1.

The law protects what it calls 'expressive activity' which includes 'any lawful
noncommercial verbal or written means by which one person communicates ideas to
another, and includes peaceful assembly, protests, speeches, distribution of literature, the carrying of signs, and the circulation of petitions'.

Also protected is what the law calls 'intellectual diversity' which ensures a learning environment that 'exposes students to and encourages exploration of a variety of ideological and political perspectives'.

A number of incidents on campuses around the country and in South Dakota prompted the need for the law to clarify what is and is not acceptable under the first amendment.

Most recently, in February of this year, the administration at the University of South Dakota urged the hosts of a campus 'Hawaiian Day' party to change the theme, deeming it insensitive to indigenous Hawaiians. Officials argued the event potentially violated the school’s policy on inclusiveness.

That incident led South Dakota Representative Sue Peterson (R) to sponsor the campus free-speech bill, arguing that changing the party’s name violated students’ right to free speech.

According to the Board of Regents' agenda for the June 26 session at the Woster Celebration Hall at South Dakota State, the board will get public input to 'solicit assistance in gathering the best means of achieving the intent of the new legislative requirements'. The session is scheduled to run from 10:30 AM to noon.

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