Jakobsson works to protect free speech on campus

In response to the University’s prohibition on employee political activity this past fall, state Rep. Naomi Jakobsson (D-Urbana) passed legislation that would allow faculty and staff to exercise their right to free speech by displaying their personal political preferences, says a press release.

“In all my years as a resident of Urbana and as a neighbor to the University of Illinois, I have never heard of university faculty and staff being barred from expressing themselves politically,” Jakobsson said in the press release. “Once the news broke of this prohibition last fall, my phone began ringing off the hook with complaints that people’s First Amendment rights were in danger. I knew it was my job as their representative in Springfield to draft legislation to ensure that people have the right to show their support for the candidate or party of their choosing.”

In January, Jakobsson filed House Bills 898 and 899 to deal with the situation. HB 898 allows faculty and staff of any state institute of higher education to express their views on any matter to any member of government without prior approval of the college or university where they are employed.

HB 899 states that a public college or university cannot prohibit an employee from displaying political buttons, stickers, bumper stickers or patches while on university property.

Both bills are currently headed to the House for consideration.

“No one should have to forfeit free speech rights because of employment at a public university or college,” said Esther Patt, a University employee, in the press release. “These bills will clarify for administrators that faculty and staff have the right to free expression of political opinions.”