In 2017 of October, the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents passed a policy on free speech with the alleged purpose of protecting freedom of expression on campus. The main concern seemed to be protecting students from themselves, mandating increasingly harsh punishments for students who “disrupt” others’ speech, with expulsion being mandatory on the third offense. While its provisions protecting speakers from protest were ironclad, its protection for protestors left something to be desired. It didn’t have any.

Professor Howard Schweber, a member of the University of Wisconsin’s political science department and a specialist in constitutional law, gave a talk that highlighted the policy’s flaws — specifically pointing to the language being overly broad.

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The policy itself was preemptive of another bill introduced to the state legislator by Wisconsin House Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, with identical provisions forcing the university to punish and expel protestors and an identical goal — protect speakers from student dissent. While Vos’ bill never passed, its message reached the Regents loud and clear — students should shut up and listen, not stand up or speak out.

To all wondering where Vos got the idea, a recent exposé created in collaboration with the Arizona Republic, the Center for Public Integrity and USA Today has the answer.

A March 2017 email from Vos requested that a law be “drafted as written,” attaching a copy of the Campus Free Speech Act, a piece of model legislation written by the conservative Goldwater Institute. The model bill has near-identical provisions to a proposal from another conservative think-tank, American Legislative Exchange Council.

Did the Speaker ask university administrators, groups on all sides of the dispute, students and locals what they think? Why bother, when he can get all his important decisions made about 1,700 miles away in Arizona? Why ask when it’s as easy as “draft as written?”

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Vos’ copy-pasted malpractice is a symptom of a larger problem — at least 10,000 bills introduced in the past eight years were almost completely copied from model legislation. Of these, around 2,100 were signed into law — and the most effective users of model templates in legislating are conservatives and large business interests.

The problem, however, is not that model legislation exists — as long as the substance of American laws and their wording are clear and public, anyone can write a model bill. The crisis of the legislative-industrial complex is a moral one: our statehouse and state Senate are brimming with rubber-stamps for out-of-state think-tanks’ salvos in a mass-media culture war. The law, ideally a tool for promoting a just, prosperous Wisconsin, is instead a thumbscrew to keep power.

The Campus Free Speech policy addresses a nonexistent problem — the Campus Climate Survey shows conservative students as more comfortable expressing their political opinions in a student environment than their other peers. But the current Republican party can profit by furthering an empty narrative of leftist dominance on college campuses and use that as a pretext to crack down on protest. When their ideology makes no distinction between the University of California-Berkeley and UW, why should their policy?

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These representatives and senators have a nationalized ideology, where any state or district is interchangeable. Rep. Dave Murphy does not address Greenville, Wisconsin’s needs when he grouses about the UW course syllabus he misreads. He addresses only the fear that somewhere in the state, there is a place where his party’s narrative is not dominant.

Model legislation is making it harder to sue abusive businesses in the name of being “pro-business.” The “victim’s rights” campaign of the bipartisan Marsy’s Law undermines due process in our already over-carceral justice system is just another symptom of politics placing narratives over people.

The lawmakers thoughtlessly signing off on these bills do not know what they want to do. Rather, they know who they want to be. They want to be “pro-business,” they want to “support crime victims,” and they are offered a way to show that by groups with narrow interests and concrete proposals to back their glittering generalities. Our laws are not vehicles for their ideas. They have no ideas save what their committees give them. Our laws are vehicles for their vague notion of self.

Trump signs executive order requiring colleges to protect free speech, or risk losing federal fundingPresident Donald Trump signed an executive order March 21 requiring colleges to protect free speech on campus or risk losing Read…

The solution is in front of us. When the voters no longer tolerate this behavior, it will change. Outrage is the best tool to move the people to the polls — the Democrats’ outrage at former Gov. Scott Walker’s flagrant corruption won them the state’s executive branch, the Republicans’ outrage at that loss and their desire to cement control over the judiciary put Judge Brian Hagedorn on the Supreme Court.

When a candidate thinks our needs can be addressed via fill-in-the-blank, when we are told about a glowing, fuzzy picture and not about our needs being met, we are being treated outrageously. We must remember that we deserve better.

Ethan Carpenter ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in political science.