Rider University to Amend Bill Targeting Hate Speech

Students concerned bill would be used to silence conservative voices

Rider University
March 10, 2018

The Rider University Student Government Association intends to amend a bill targeting hate speech, after students expressed concern that it could be wielded to silence conservative voices.

A bill passed last month stipulated that student clubs "may have their recognition called into question," should they "espouse inflammatory, hateful, or derogatory rhetoric or agendas."

The bill further asserted that an offense "need not meet legal or academic classifications of 'hate speech' in order to violate this principle" in order for SGA to retaliate by defunding or de-recognizing a club.

This expansive, ambiguous wording was cause for alarm to the Rider College Republicans, who expressed fierce opposition to the measure.

Now, CR chair Alex Solomon has told the Washington Free Beacon that the SGA has promised to bring forth an amendment to excise the vague language.

In a meeting Thursday night with the SGA board and SGA President John Modica, Solomon said the student leadership promised "to eliminate the language … that was suppressing our free speech."

The amendment is likely to be introduced later this month.

SGA will also be removing itself from the penal process in sanctioning clubs, said Solomon. Club punishment will instead be handled by the Office of Community Standards, which oversees disciplinary action against individual students.

The SGA measure looked to uphold "values-based criteria," in the pursuit of "an ethical and virtuous university climate."

Solomon previously told the Free Beacon "the arbitrary nature of the wording is the most concerning part [of the bill]," as it empowered the SGA to decide on a whim to punish a club.

Though no specific viewpoints were marked for censure in the bill, Solomon worried that students of his political persuasion were at greater risk due to tensions with the SGA over body's recent refusal to give recognition to a chapter of the right-wing Turning Point USA.

"That issue confirmed some of our suspicions about them [SGA] being unfriendly to conservatives and Republicans," said Solomon.

On Friday, Solomon expressed a more positive view of conservative relations with SGA.

"We are still reviewing the amended bill and its language, but we are optimistic that this version will be acceptable and the issue will be solved," Solomon said.

Rider's student handbook—enforced by the Office of Community Standards—notes a commitment to "the legitimate exercise of free speech," while affirming extensive anti-harassment regulations that cover refutations of discrimination on the basis of both changeable and immutable characteristics, including race, color, creed, marital status, and national origin.

Political views are not listed among these protected attributes.

SGA did not respond to queries regarding the changes to the hate speech bill by press time.

Published under: College Campuses