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New GOP bill would punish students or faculty who interfere with free speech

GOP lawmakers have introduced a bill that would punish students and faculty for taking part in the disruption of the free speech of others. (Getty Images)

According to The Associated Press, GOP lawmakers in Wisconsin are pushing a bill that would see students at public universities expelled should they disrupt, or prevent speeches, and would force the universities to maintain a neutral stance on speakers who are invited to the campuses to give talks.

The bill is reportedly modeled after a proposal that was created by the conservative Goldwater Institute to address the recent problems with allowing free speech on campuses. Sponsors of the bill have said that this represents the Republican's promise "to protect the freedom of expression on college campuses."

"All across the nation and here at home, we've seen protesters trying to silence different viewpoints," said Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, one of the bill's chief sponsors. "Free speech means free speech for everyone and not just for the person who speaks the loudest."

University spokesman John Lewis said that the school already has a policy that facilitates free speech objectively, and that passing this bill would disallow the university's disciplinary committee from considering all the circumstances of each case.

Scot Ross, executive director of liberal advocacy group One Wisconsin Now, referred to Vos, and the bill's authors as "fragile snowflakes," saying "these Republicans want to make our campuses safe spaces for Republicans to be free of criticism and subject students to legal sanctions if they speak out."

Just last year at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, conservative author and podcast host Ben Shapiro was speaking on stage when a group of radical leftists students interrupted the proceedings, and began shouting "safety" in protest of Shapiro's very presence.

"The reason those people were not arrested is the administration decided...that if they called the cops and arrested those students, they would have shut down the entire event,"  Shapiro explained after the students had been escorted out.

"All I can wonder is if the administration would have allowed the same sort of privilege for any sort of conservative who decided to do this at a lefty event," Shapiro said.

The bill, to help with these kinds of situations where the university holds these biases, adds onto already existing legislation that protects free speech on Wisconsin campuses.

From AP:

Under Republican Gov. Scott Walker's state budget plan, the university system's Board of Regents would have to adopt a policy stating that concerns about civility and mutual respect should never be used to justify closing off discussions. But campuses could restrict speech that violates the law, falsely defames an individual or constitutes a threat, and students would be barred from obstructing others' free speech rights.

The new bill goes further. The legislation would require regents to quickly adopt a policy requiring each campus to remain neutral on current public controversies. It wasn't immediately clear whether the bill would bar chancellors and faculty members from expressing their viewpoints or if university lobbyists' work would be forbidden.

The bill will put a range of disciplinary sanctions on staff and faculty that use "violent, abusive, indecent, profane, boisterous, obscene, unreasonably loud, or other disorderly conduct," but does not detail what kind of behavior constitutes any of these. Students will be entitled to repeals of the disciplinary measures taken, however, if a student is caught interfering with someone's free speech twice, they could be suspended for a semester, or expelled.

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