According to the Wisconsin State Journal, Republican lawmakers in the state are sponsoring a bill that would suspend or expel University of Wisconsin college students who disrupt campus speeches by heckling or protesting.
The Campus Free Speech Act would require administrators at the University of Wisconsin to develop a disciplinary policy for those who interfere with anyone's right to express themselves and would prevent state schools from taking stances on social issues. What's more, it would give speakers the right to sue UW if their events were shut down by students.
The pending legislation comes at a time when tensions between liberal protesters and conservative speakers are at an all-time high. In the past few months, universities across the country have routinely dissolved into chaos as polarizing figures have tried to speak there. Late last January, a man was shot during a Milo Yiannopoulos protest at the University of Washington. Students effectively blocked eugenicist Charles Murray from speaking at Middlebury University in March, and on Wednesday, right-wing pundit Ann Coulter canceled her scheduled appearance in Berkeley after administrators said they couldn't protect her from possible violence.
Back in 2015, the University of Chicago released a report that said campus protestors there "may not obstruct or otherwise interfere with the freedom of others to express views they reject or even loathe." A conservative think tank called the Goldwater Institute later published a model of how to turn the Chicago report into law, and Wisconsin is just the latest state to consider adopting a version of it. It's already happened in Colorado, and Republicans in Michigan, North Carolina, and Virginia are also apparently considering introducing similar bills.
The legal director of the Wisconsin chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union told the Associated Press that the bill was "unnecessarily draconian." Meanwhile, one of the bill's key sponsors argues that the Campus Free Speech Act will protect free expression by expelling students who use it to voice their distaste for unpopular viewpoints.
"All across the nation and here at home, we've seen protesters trying to silence different viewpoints," Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said in a statement on Thursday. "Free speech means free speech for everyone and not just for the person who speaks the loudest."
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