Wisconsin Law Would Suspend or Expel Students Who Restrict Free Speech

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By Joe Simonson | 4:01 pm, June 22, 2017

Banning kids from engaging in behavior you don’t like has been so effective in the past.

Like forbidding underage drinking or marijuana use, Wisconsin legislators think a new bill that would suspend or expel students who disrupt campus speakers they don’t like will put an end to the behavior.

The bill has been approved by the Wisconsin State Assembly and now moves forward to the State Senate. The Campus Free Speech Act— applicable only to the state’s public colleges— follows other laws passed in Colorado, and resembles those proposed in states like Michigan, North Carolina, Virginia, and California.

The bill passed the Wisconsin Legislature Wednesday night on party lines, 61-36.  Not a single Democrat voted in favor of the law.

According to Rep. Jesse Kremer, the lead sponsor of the bill, state Republicans were concerned about the climate on college campuses “where students’ free speech rights have been taken away.”  He hopes the new law will make the state’s universities more welcoming to students of all political dispositions.

“It’s not meant to hurt anyone. People are still allowed to protest and disagree. It’s that the person in a forum has the right to get their point across without being disrupted,” Kremer said.

Democrats, and First Amendment advocates voiced concern that the bill may be unconstitutional and actually have the opposite intended impact on college campuses.

“Our colleges and universities should be a place to vigorously debate ideas and ultimately learn from one another,” said Democratic Rep. Lisa Subec.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker delivers a speech on the third day of the Republican National Convention. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

If it passes the State Senate, the bill is expected to be signed into law by Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

“To me, a university should be precisely the spot where you have an open and free dialogue about all different positions,” he told a local radio station in April. “But the minute you shut down a speaker, no matter whether they are liberal or conservative or somewhere in between, I just think that’s wrong.”

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