On Wednesday night, spurred by the incident in November 2016 when Daily Wire Editor-In-Chief Ben Shapiro’s speech at the University of Wisconsin-Madison was drowned out by roughly a dozen student protesters who blocked him from the audience, Republicans in the Wisconsin State Assembly passed the Campus Free Speech Act, which would suspend and possibly expel students in the UW system if they repeatedly disrupt campus speakers whom they are protesting.
No Democrats voted for the bill, which is headed for the state Senate. Instead of noting that conservatives had been prevented from speaking, the Democrats protested that protesters’ free speech was being thwarted.
Democratic Rep. Chris Taylor of Madison stated, “It basically gags and bags the First Amendment.” Rep. Lisa Subeck, a Democrat from Madison, whined:
Today, Assembly Republicans are poised to pass a shameful gag rule that will effectively muzzle free speech and dissent on our college campuses. Our colleges and universities should be a place to vigorously debate ideas and ultimately learn from one another. Instead, this campus gag rule creates an atmosphere of fear where free expression and dissent are discouraged. … It is an unnecessary and politically motivated attempt by Republicans to tell our state’s young people how to think, speak, and act.
But the bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Jesse Kremer, countered, “We have to lay down some groundwork here and we have to create a behavioral shift so everyone can be heard and has the right to express their views.” He told The Washington Post that he brought the bill to respond to “situations where students’ free speech rights have been taken away … 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.”
The Post reported:
Under the Wisconsin bill, two complaints about a UW System student’s conduct during a speech or presentation would trigger a hearing. Students found to have twice engaged in violence or disorderly conduct that disrupts another’s freedom of expression would be suspended for a semester. A third offense would mean expulsion. UW institutions would have to remain neutral on public controversies and the Board of Regents would have to report annually to legislators about incidents.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who would have to sign the bill into law, commented to WISN in April, “To me, a university should be precisely the spot where you have an open and free dialogue about all different positions. 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.”
Video of protesters at Shapiro’s event below: