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Friday, June 21, 2024

Republican state lawmakers introduce another UW ‘free speech’ bill

Just one week after state Republicans introduced a bill to punish students who protest and disrupt speeches or presentations, lawmakers have launched separate and potentially harsher “free speech” legislation.

The second bill, introduced by state Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Brookfield, and state Rep. Adam Jarchow, R-Balsam Lake, would allow UW System schools and technical colleges to expel students who impede free speech rights.

The legislation is similar to the “Free Speech Act,” introduced by different Republican lawmakers last week. However, unlike the latest proposal, the first bill does not apply to technical colleges and it does not require colleges to allow speakers to visit campus if they are unable to guarantee their safety.

Vukmir and Jarchow, who began circulating the bill for co-sponsors Wednesday, said in a memo to legislators that the bill enacts “strict statutory requirements and prohibitions regarding free speech … to help discourse flourish on all of our college campuses.”

“It’s no secret that college campuses have become ground zero in the war against free speech,” the co-sponsorship memo reads. “Whether at UC–Berkeley or here in Wisconsin at UW–Madison or UW–La Crosse, we have seen recent incidents of people punished or intimidated for sharing opinions that contradict a nearly universally accepted liberal doctrine at our institutions of higher learning.”

The bill also prohibits college administrators from expressing views on political controversies and specifies options, including expulsion, for disciplining students for free speech violations.

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