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Free expression resolution passes Board of Regents unanimously

Since his emails during the restructuring announcement were made public, faculty and staff have called for UW System President Ray Cross to apologize.

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A resolution on free expression passed the Board of Regents after brief discussion Friday, paving the way for the regents to assess existing policies to ensure all UW System campuses promote civil discourse.

The resolution, which was passed unanimously, states that the body and the UW System “are committed to freedom of expression and ensuring every voice on every campus is heard and respected” and cites a previous resolution from December 2015 on academic freedom and its commitment to free expression.

The December 2015 resolution stated that the UW System was committed to the right of all citizens to write or speak “without institutional discipline or restraint, on scholarly matters or on matters of public concern.”

Regent Drew Petersen introduced the resolution calling it a “guidepost for our campuses to be alert - to honor opposing views and to promote a civil discourse debate.” He also referenced the 2015 resolution which he said came from student and faculty concern about opinions on campuses being suppressed.

“These individuals shared feelings as though their first amendment rights were being jeopardized,” Petersen said. “These dispositions were not limited to the Madison campus, but rather were more widespread— affecting many of our system campuses, both two year and four.”

Petersen referenced a famous 1894 quote from a Board of Regents statement, which said that “sifting and winnowing by which alone the truth can be found.” Peterson said this motto serves as support for students and staff.

“Whether it be provocative thought or provocative and potentially breakthrough research—the lecture halls and laboratories of our universities must remain open, inquisitive and unfettered,” Petersen said.

This resolution comes after the state assembly passed the Campus Free Speech Act, which seeks to protect free expression by punishing protesters who restrict others’ speech. This bill would give the Board of Regents the power to discipline students who are reported for violating its policies.

The state Senate has yet to vote on the Campus Free Speech Act.

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