In the wake of campus riots and continued attempts to suppress controversial speakers across college campuses in the United States, Wisconsin lawmakers have proposed new legislation to protect speakers’ First Amendment rights. The proposed law is being decried as “Safe Spaces for Racists” by campus leftists.
According to an analysis by the Legislative Reference Bureau in Wisconsin, the Republican-authored bill creates new statutory requirements and prohibitions regarding free speech at the University of Wisconsin and the state’s technical college system. The legislation declares that it’s not the role of the universities to shield individuals from speech protected by the First Amendment.
Authored by State Sen. Leah Vukmir, the bill guarantees students, faculty and staff the right to assemble and engage in free expression. Furthermore, campuses must be open to any speaker invited by students, faculty or staff, and public areas of campuses are to be designated as traditional public forums. Administrators must remain neutral on public policy controversies and not force students, faculty or staff to express specified viewpoints. The act allows for anyone “lawfully present” on campus to protest or demonstrate, provided they do not infringe on the rights of speakers and attendees.
The proposed bill requires administrators to make “all reasonable efforts” and resources to ensure the safety of invited speakers. If they cannot guarantee a speaker’s safety, the bill requires that speakers must be allowed to speak regardless of that determination. In other words, a campus cannot cancel a speaking event if protesters threaten the school.
Leftist progressives have taken issue with the final provision of the bill, which bans them from threatening invited speakers, threatening to organize protests or riots, or to incite violence with the purpose of suppressing free speech. In other words, they’re not allowed to perform what the ACLU termed a “heckler’s veto.”
“Leah Vukmir is apparently trying to prove that she can take a bad idea and make it even worse,” declared Scot Ross, Executive Director of the leftist advocacy group One Wisconsin Now. “This scheme literally threatens students with expulsion from school for publicly declaring racism has no place on campuses and gags administrators from advocating for their schools.”
The organization calls the provisions of the bill “egregious” for having “language so broad that it could even cover student social media posts or attempts to persuade that are clearly protected by the First Amendment.”
Campus leftists have been stepping up their attempts to suppress free speech through violence. Demonstrators disrupted a speech by social scientist Charles Murray at Middlebury College by attacking Allison Stanger, the college professor who organized the event. The assault, which caused injury to her neck, landed her in hospital.