New Indiana law is meant to protect free speech at universities. It may do the opposite.

Amidst a chorus of cheers, boos and "Let her finish" chants, conservative political commentator Ann Coulter walked off the Whittenberger Auditorium stage before college student Tara Layous finished asking her question. 

Prior to its slightly fiery conclusion, the student action against Coulter's appearance at Indiana University early this month was relatively restrained. There were no protesters picketing outside the event. The nearby sidewalk's chalk work, sporting "Racist gathering" in bright pink letters with an arrow pointing toward the IMU, was the only prominent sign in the surrounding area. During Coulter's speech on the history of conservatism, the crowd's interruptions were sparse and far between. 

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It was only during the event's Q&A portion, when Coulter said Layous was taking too long to ask a question, that the mood shifted.

After a brief back and forth with a few audience members, Coulter left the stage. When asked why she was in such a hurry to shuffle along questions, Coulter responded she had a plane to catch. She noted the event, which was scheduled for 60 minutes, had already run over its allotted time.

Coulter later tweeted the event was "the funnest (sic) event I've done since COVID," with many questions from "the liberals, who were perfectly polite" until Layous' turn.

Immediately following the event, Layous, a senior at IU, told The Herald-Times she didn't come to the event as a protester. Layous said she didn't intend to prompt Coulter to leave and was disappointed the people after her didn't get to ask their own questions. 

While Layous said she can't speak on whether free speech at Indiana University is protected as a whole, "I don't think it was (protected) today." 

Tara Layous laughs at what Ann Coulter was saying April 1 as she waits her turn during the question and answer portion of Coulter's appearance at the Indiana Memorial Union.

That's something state lawmakers sought to change during the most recent session of the Indiana General Assembly. Legislators intensified free speech protection on college campuses by passing House Bill 1190, which was later signed into law by Gov. Eric Holcomb.

Under this legislation, universities must create and publish clear policies on free speech rights and protections for students, faculty members and staff. Universities cannot prohibit protected expressive activities at an outdoor, accessible area on campus, though they can enforce restrictions on the time, place and manner.

The new law also requires universities to submit an annual report of complaints to a higher education commission. If a student or student organization claims their right to free speech has been violated on campus, they can seek legal action, which could grant them up to $50,000, court costs and attorney's fees. 

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While the new law's stated purpose is to better protect speech, some have questioned whether its fine print will preserve or hinder a person's constitutional rights.