Former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker spoke to the University of Wisconsin-Madison College Republicans group about free speech issues Wednesday at Grainger Hall, encouraging students to take a free speech survey which will be sent out to all UW System undergraduates Thursday. 

Walker spent much of his two hour address talking about free speech, launching the event with the claim that conservative speakers are not allowed to speak as liberal speakers can on college campuses.

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“They put double standards in place that don’t apply to others,” Walker said.

Walker encouraged all students to take free speech survey that will be sent to UW System students Thursday, April 7. All undergraduates will receive the Student Perceptions of Campus Free Speech Survey and can submit it up until May 6, UW System Interim President Michael Falbo announced Tuesday.

The survey’s goal is to “measure and analyze undergraduate students’ perception of free speech and freedom of expression on University of Wisconsin campuses,” according to the Wisconsin Institute for Public Policy and Service, which is a UW System unit conducting the survey.

The survey is funded by UW-Stout’s Menard Center, which was founded in 2017 with a donation from the conservative Charles Koch Foundation. The center was renamed following a more than $2 million donation from the family that started the Menards chain store, who is known for funding GOP causes.

According to the UW System, the survey will examine students’ knowledge of the First Amendment, how much students value free speech, perceptions of issues with a lack of diverse viewpoints, if they feel free to speak their mind and whether they have been penalized for speaking their mind.

Walker also denounced the resignation of UW-Whitewater Interim Chancellor Jim Henderson, which was in part connected to the survey.

“I find it remarkable that the chancellor of a public institution would resign over the fact that we want to ensure that free speech rights are protected throughout [college] campuses,” Walker said.

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According to the Wisconsin State Journal, Henderson resigned partially due to concerns of student survey fatigue and the timeline of the survey, which he said chancellors questioned because of the funding contingencies linked to the timeline.

Falbo had decided the UW System would not participate in the survey until an email from the Menard Center’s Director Tim Shiell, which requested a written explanation about why the System would not proceed with the survey, changed his mind, according to the State Journal.

“While we certainly value the opinions of the chancellors on this topic, we are concerned their judgments are based on incomplete and perhaps mistaken information regarding the survey,” Shiell said in the email. “We are well aware that controversies regarding free expression on our campuses continue to put the UW-System in the crosshairs of groups across the political spectrum.”

Over the last 24 days, Walker has made 28 appearances with the Young America’s Foundation, a conservative youth organization also known as YAF of which he is currently the president. 

Walker cited conservative political commentator Ben Shapiro’s visit to the University of California, Berkeley in 2017 as an example of “double standards” for conservative speakers.

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In that case, UC Berkeley administrators did not refuse the visit but allegedly prevented advertising of the event, required the address to be made prior to 3 p.m. and up-charged YAF for security detail. The university denied up-charging for Shapiro’s security, citing a policy change affecting all student groups.

After the case was taken to court, UC Berkeley settled the free speech lawsuit, which required the university to cover $70,000 in legal costs for the Berkeley College Republicans and the YAF group based out of Tennessee.

During the Q&A portion of the meeting, Walker responded to a question about what he would have done differently in respect to Act 10, the controversial legislation passed under Walker that reduced the collective bargaining rights of many state employees, most notably K-12 teachers. This decision ultimately led to a gubernatorial recall election, which was only the third in US history, according to NPR. Walker is the sole governor to survive a recall election.

Walker said he would have only changed one thing — taking too much action too quickly.

“Don’t tell people what before you tell them why,” Walker said.

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Walker also expressed low expectations for crime rates in Milwaukee County following the reelection of Mayor Cavalier Johnson, who beat former Alderman Bob Donovan by nearly 50% in Tuesday’s election.

On the topic of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Walker said the U.S. should take a more heavy-handed approach.

“The biggest thing that keeps me up right now is the damage we’re doing to America’s status in the world is almost irreversible,” Walker said.

In regards to the current political climate, Walker encouraged students to listen to others’ with different opinions than them to strengthen their own perspectives.

“If you’ve got fellow students [with opposing viewpoints] …be polite about it [issues], ask about it,” Walker said. “Asking those kinds of things allow you to be bold in your own way.”