The model state-level legislation below was authored by Stanley Kurtz, a Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, and was last updated on November 29, 2021. NAS’s endorsement of this model can be found here, and Kurtz’s explanation and defense of it can be found here.
WHEREAS, the advancement of knowledge that is the fundamental purpose of the university is crucially facilitated by the fearless sifting and winnowing of a wide diversity of views; and
WHEREAS, open discussion and debate of contested public policy issues from diverse perspectives provides essential preparation for mature citizenship and an informed exercise of the right to vote; now, therefore,
Be It Enacted:
The Board of Trustees of the state university system shall establish, fund, and staff an Office of Public Policy Events on every campus of the state university system, the responsibilities of which shall include, at least, the following:
- Organizing, publicizing, and staging debates and group forums that address from multiple, divergent, and opposing perspectives an extensive range of public policy issues widely-discussed and debated in society at large.
- Organizing, publicizing, and staging at least eight debates or group forums, spaced as evenly as possible over the regular school year and not to be held during summer session, observed holidays, or session breaks, at least six of which events shall be debates.
- Inviting speakers who hold a wide diversity of perspectives, from within and outside the campus community, to participate in debates and group forums. If the office of public policy events is unable to readily find an advocate from within the university who is well-versed in a perspective the office wishes to see represented in a given debate or group forum, the office should seek to invite such a speaker from outside the university.
- Providing, where necessary, honoraria, travel, and lodging expenses to participants in debates and group forums organized by the Office of Public Policy Events, from outside the campus community.
- Maintaining a permanent, publicly accessible, searchable, and up-to-date calendar in print and Internet-accessible formats listing all events sponsored by the Office of Public Policy Events, and all other debates, group forums, and individual lectures open to the entire campus community at a given institution within the state university system, that address public policy issues, itemizing the title of the event or lecture, the name and institutional affiliation of the speaker or speakers, and the office, institute, department, program, or organization, that sponsored the event, excluding those events sponsored by off-campus groups in rented facilities.
- Delivering a printed and a pdf-formatted copy of the previous academic year’s annual public policy event calendar for all institutions in the state university system, arranged chronologically for each individual institution within the state university system, to the public, the Governor, and the State Legislature by September 1 of each year, and preserving and making available to the public copies of all yearly event calendars in the libraries of the state university system.
- Making publicly available a complete Internet-accessible video record of every debate and group forum organized by the Office of Public Policy Events, mounting that video record on the Internet within ten in-session working days of the event in question, and maintaining that video record in a fully public, Internet-accessible form for at least five years following the date of the event. Video records of every debate and group forum organized by the Office of Public Policy Events at a given institution within the State University System should also be permanently preserved within, and made available to the public through, the library of that institution.
At its discretion, for any given campus of the State University System, the Board of Trustees of the State University System may assign the duties of the Office of Public Policy Events described in this Act to an existing administrative office, so long as an administrator in that office is designated as the Director of Public Policy Events for that campus. In such cases, the duties and reporting responsibilities of the Office of Public Policy Events described in this Act shall apply to the Director of Public Policy Events and the Director’s staff.
The Office of Public Policy Events on any given campus of the State University System shall report directly to either the University Office of Reporting and Analytics (the university office responsible for compiling and reporting the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, IPEDS, Graduation Rate Survey), or to the Office of General Counsel on that campus.
All debates and group forums organized by the Office of Public Policy Events at a given institution shall be open to all students, faculty, and staff at that institution, and, unless restricting attendance by persons unaffiliated with the university is necessary to achieve a compelling governmental interest, to the general public as well.
Section 5. (Optional)
[If so desired, the legislature can authorize funding for Offices of Public Policy Events within the State University System. Otherwise, funding for these offices can be taken out of the existing university appropriation.]
Regarding the choice of individual event topics, or the particular viewpoints to be held by participants, each Office of Public Policy Events shall aspire to:
- Obtain the participation of speakers who represent widely-held views on opposing sides of the most widely-discussed public policy issues of the day.
- Invite and host speakers from outside the university who are well-versed in a perspective the office wishes to see represented in a given debate or group forum, if such a speaker is not readily available from within the university.
- “Debate” is defined as an event at which two or more participants speak in favor of opposing approaches to the same public policy dispute, after which each participant is allotted time to address and rebut the position presented by the opposing speaker or speakers.
- “Group Forum” is defined as an event at which two or more speakers address a public policy dispute from divergent or opposing perspectives, after which each participant is allotted time to address questions from the audience and to comment on their fellow speakers’ positions, if they so choose.