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This is specifically with regards to speakers invited to a university campus.

Hypothetical situation:

University A (for some period of time greater than an academic year) invites only anti-police, pro-immigrant, pro-choice etc. speakers to their campus.

Question:

Is there any legislation (federal, state) preventing a university from doing this?

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    What is "unbiased"? If they invite a Nobel-winning physicist to explain the theories about the creation of the Universe, should they later invite a Creationist?
    – SJuan76
    Dec 11 '16 at 0:51
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    I am more curious if it is illegal for them to invite speakers strictly based on some agenda, political or otherwise. Another example would be if a university only invited speakers who are pro-communism.
    – dant
    Dec 11 '16 at 1:06
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    This is very similar to the argument that SCOTUS (or any judicial) appointments must be unbiased. Who is defining unbiased? What about their biases? This is basically an impossible thing to answer. Dec 11 '16 at 2:09
  • From your reference to "federal or state", are you asking about the US? Dec 11 '16 at 20:28
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    I think Nij was getting at the same thing I was: when you don't specify a country or other jurisdiction, it sounds like you are asking about every jurisdiction in the world at once, which would be unreasonable to answer as it would involve several hundred potentially different answers. It's best to use a tag to specify jurisdiction, and optionally mention it in the question also. Dec 11 '16 at 22:12
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I have worked at public and semi-public universities in three states and never heard of any such law. I think most institutions would view such a law as an infringement on academic freedom, and push back against it.

Of course, there is usually some level of oversight by the state government: e.g. governor appoints board of trustees, who appoint university president, etc,. So if the government thought there was excessive bias, they could exert pressure in a variety of ways. But I haven't heard of this being at the level of legislation.

For a private non-profit university, if it got really extreme, the IRS might decide that the organization's purpose had become political rather than educational, and they could revoke their tax-exempt status. I haven't heard of this ever actually happening.

Note also that it's a bit misleading to speak of "a university inviting a speaker". Except in very high-profile cases, most guest speakers who visit a university are invited by individual faculty or departments, student organizations, etc. If they are paid or reimbursed for travel expenses, these costs usually come out of discretionary funds controlled by the department or club, which may have originally come from private donations, etc; not necessarily tax dollars. It's all very decentralized and high-level university administration is rarely involved in such decisions. So even if there were a pattern like you describe, it would be hard to attribute it to the university per se.

In any case, the vast majority of visitors would typically be speaking on specialized academic topics with no connection to any of the political issues you mention.

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  • You must be in math. In Humanities and SocSci, there's a higher concentration of political advocacy talks, so it's probably a technical majority.
    – user6726
    Dec 11 '16 at 1:55
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There is no general law requiring government-supported universities to have viewpoint balance, or anything like that. The First Amendment generally prohibits the government from compelling speech; if some organization holds some particular beliefs to be repugnant, they cannot be forced to promote such views. The fact of receiving tax money or even being created by state governments does not negate the First Amendment rights of the individuals and organizations within a university.

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  • Put that way, I entirely understand and agree with why there is no legislation regarding this situation. Thanks for your insight!!
    – dant
    Dec 11 '16 at 1:21

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