College News

Students react to UW Regents’ freedom of expression policy draft

A Board of Regents policy draft calls for strict punishments for students who disrupt a controversial speaker on campus.

Image By: Jon Yoon

The Board of Regents policy draft outlines punishments for students who protest, mirroring that of the Campus Free Speech Act currently resting with the state Senate.

UW System spokesperson Stephanie Marquis said that the proposed policy is meant to protect all students’ ability to express their views.

However, not everyone agrees the new policy would be in students’ best interest.

“It is the University’s role, as a beacon of power and influence in Wisconsin, to protect integral values of the system as well as ensure the wellbeing of students,” Legislative Affairs Chair Kat Kerwin said. “Further, I believe the resolution criminalizes student protest, an essential aspect of freedom of speech.”

A student who protests a controversial speaker could face the following:

1) An investigation and disciplinary hearing for students who allegedly disrupted a speaker.

2) A one-semester suspension for students found guilty.

3) After three incidents, the student would face expulsion.

This comes after the state Assembly passed the Freedom of Speech Act on near party lines. The bill seeks to punish students who protest controversial speakers on campus after disruptions last year. In July, the Board of Regents passed a resolution reaffirming their commitment to freedom of speech.

While the policy doesn’t subject faculty and staff to the same rules, they must be explicit that they are speaking from their own point of view and not for the university.

“We expect our professors to have opinions and preferences, as well all do, but not to speak for our entire student body and the institution while trying to promote those goals,” College Republicans Chair Jake Lubenow said.

The draft also says that it is not the university’s role to silence one group’s ideas simply because they may offend others.

“It’s not the role of the university to stop individuals from speaking, even if they profess ideas that some or many would find controversial or troubling,” Lubenow said. “That would be contrary to the very idea of sifting and winnowing that UW was founded on.”

According to Marquis, the issue will be discussed at the upcoming UW Board of Regents meeting.

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