Rep. Jesse Kremer, R-Kewaskum, unveiled new legislation Wednesday intending to help protect free speech at University of Wisconsin System schools.
Kremer, the bill’s lead author, said in a statement, the bill helps encourage free speech within Wisconsin academia.
“In recent decades, attacks on free expression have become commonplace and in-vogue at institutions where ideals and truths should be challenged – the American university,” Kremer said.
The bill, supported by Rep. Dave Murphy, R-Greenville, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Burlington and Sen. Sheila Harsdorf, R-River Falls, calls for the Board of Regents to create a policy allowing free speech.
Kremer said the Board of Regents’ policy would include the campus being open to any invited speaker, no coercion of students or faculty in a certain belief, the allowance of protests as long as they do not interfere with free speech and the institution’s role is not to shield students from expression.
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According to a draft of the bill, the Free Speech on Campus Act would also require the Board of Regents to form a council that would make reports to the legislature, public and governor.
Vos said students need to hear all sides of issues to make educated decisions, no matter if they agree or disagree with the statement. Through the bill each student’s rights would be protected through the creation of a range of disciplinary measures for those who hinder free speech.
In an email to The Badger Herald, UW spokesperson John Lucas, said the author’s desire to create a campus that allows people to speak out without fear of harassment or intimidation.
Lucas noted the Board of Regents recently adopted a resolution for students’ rights to speak freely, and there are other existing policies in place designed to discipline students. UW itself has a policy that outlines guidelines for protests including picketing, rallies and demonstrations.
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One Wisconsin Now said through this bill the GOP representatives are requiring the System to create safe spaces where “conservatives, Republicans, racists and sexists can be exempt from criticism by their peers on campuses across Wisconsin.”
The organization said the bill is the latest Republican push to silence student voices on campus.
One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross said in a statement the Republicans supporting the bill attacked poor individuals, women, minorities and transgender children. He said they are now threatened by criticism from students.
“These Republicans want to make our campuses safe spaces for Republicans to be free of criticism and subject students to legal sanctions if they speak out,” Ross said.
Lucas said mandating disciplinary measures for students limits the power of disciplinary committees to weigh all factors. UW encourages the Legislature to work with the Board of Regents, creating policies that respect student voices, general order and the existing conduct process.