Representatives from the student organization that had their sex toy forum canceled last week spoke out Wednesday with optimism for a future event in the University of Wisconsin Law School.
Administrators responded to a formal complaint by Wisconsin Law Students for Reproductive Justice Tuesday, saying the cancellation was a misunderstanding.
Law School Dean Ken Davis said university guidelines prohibit the use of facilities not only for sales but also “to promote or endorse commercial products or businesses.”
In a statement Wednesday, however, Wisconsin Law Students for Reproductive Justice chair Maria Selsor said the presentation was not a promotion for area retailer A Woman’s Touch.
“We anticipated A Woman’s Touch would feature their products at our event and might get good PR from it, but we do not see that as a commercial promotion,” Selsor said, pointing out the retailer has already done presentations in women’s health classes on campus.
Selsor also said other student groups advertise their events prominently featuring businesses like pizza restaurants and Madison-area bars without “commercial promotion” being an issue at the Law School.
Donald Downs, political science professor and chair of the Committee for Academic Freedom and Rights, said the policy for events with commercial goods needs to “pass First Amendment muster,” then must be applied to each organization equally.
“If, however, it’s not being applied to groups equally, that indicates viewpoint discrimination and there’s a First Amendment problem,” Downs said.
In their complaint, WLSRJ representatives contended the Law School’s decision to cancel the event and remove posters was “both procedurally and substantively unjust, constituted discrimination against our organization and sets a dangerous precedent for the future freedom of expression of all student organizations in the Law School.”
Davis sympathized with the group over the miscommunication of rules and said the school would reimburse the group for their food and beverages not used at the event and permit the program if it did not promote any commercial goods.
“I too take great pride in our university’s and Law School’s history of commitment to promoting the free expression of ideas,” Davis said in his letter Tuesday.
Selsor said their board was “pleased” Davis responded to their complaint in a timely manner and was encouraged by his commitment to refunding the money and allowing the event to proceed in the future.
“We still wish to see the Law School develop a better procedure if the school is concerned about a student organization event, one that is not unilateral, but fosters dialogue with the student organization in question,” Selsor said.