The Wisconsin Assembly has passed a law supporting free speech at the University of Wisconsin System campuses. It would still need to be passed by the WI Senate and signed by Governor Walker. NPR reports:
Students who disrupt campus events at University of Wisconsin System schools could be expelled under a bill approved Wednesday by the state Assembly.
Under the proposal, students who are found guilty of engaging in “violent or other disorderly conduct that materially and substantially disrupts” others’ free expression would be suspended after two offenses and expelled after three.
The measure is sponsored by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, who has said he believes it to be “one of the most important” bills to be taken up by lawmakers this session.
“One of our fundamental rights, one of the most important parts of being an American, the right to free speech, is under attack,” Vos said during debate. “On far too many college campuses, different points of view are not even allowed.”
The bill would allow any person to report another person for disrupting free expression. A formal investigation and disciplinary hearing overseen by the UW System’s Board of Regents would be required for anyone who has been reported twice for such disruptions.
The proposal also requires UW System institutions to provide training and orientation on the new speech policies to students and employees.
We are not big fans of handling free speech at the state level but this looks to be extraordinarily weak tea. It seems to give protesters one or two free punches. We think, depending on the circumstances, penalties for one violent disruption of speech should include suspending or expelling a student. Naturally, the left is in a tizzy as indicated by a Facebook comment:
Making Wisconsin safe for the right wing nazis. “ve muss haff order.”
The opportunities for left wing Nazis was unspecified. More troubling is the attitude of elected Democrats as reported by NPR:
“The problems with this bill: it is an unconstitutional bill, it is a gag order,” said Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison. “It basically gags and bags the First Amendment.”
Representative Taylor seems to be unfamiliar with the First Amendment.
The potentially useful part of the bill is in the last paragraph of the first quote. First Amendment training might be useful to students and employees at UW System. Perhaps we can sign up elected officials too. We do not expect much from this bill in the event that it is passed. The same folks will still be running the schools.