Republican lawmakers have introduced two bills in the last week that create penalties for college students who disrupt campus events, such as speeches by controversial personalities. Those proposals are drawing criticism from free speech advocates though, who argue they would stifle free speech rights.
Republican lawmakers proposed a bill last week that would penalize students who disrupt events on University of Wisconsin System campuses. The bill, from Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and Rep. Jesse Kremer (R-Kewaskum), directs the UW System to implement policies that encourage free speech from both sides of the political aisle.
“The goal is to have the maximum amount of free speech that we possibly can, without regard to one side of the political equation or the other, so that the students – who are paying for the opportunity – get to hear from all viewpoints and get to make up their own mind,” Vos said last week.
A competing version was introduced this week, by Sen. Leah Vukmir (R-Brookfield) and Rep. Adam Jarchow (R-Balsam Lake). It also applies the protections to technical college campuses, and allows students to face expulsion for organizing efforts to protest on-campus events. “This is an attempt to squelch speech on campus,” argues One Wisconsin Now executive director Scot Ross.
Ross says the Vukmir/Jarchow bill would also muzzle administrators, by preventing them from talking about public policy or political issues. For instance, Ross says UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank could be prevented from going to lawmakers to advocate for increase penalties for sexual assault on campus.
“These are absolute and total assaults on the First Amendment,” Ross argues.