University of Wisconsin system passes policy to punish students who protest campus speeches

MILWAUKEE -- A new policy across UW campuses could punish students who disrupt campus speeches and presentations. The new policy was passed Friday by UW System Board of Regents. 

“I was really disappointed to hear that news," Nia Wilson said. “People see protest as like violence or riots and that’s not always the case, it’s just a voice."

Nia Wilson is a student at UW-Milwaukee and the president of the Black Student Union. Wilson said she considers the policy unfair because she and other students have the right to oppose the views of speakers who come to campus. 

“The freedom of speech should be allowed to counteract if we feel that a person’s viewpoints or what they stand for doesn’t represent us as students," Wilson said. “It’s a difference between freedom and speech and hate and a lot of people don’t understand that what certain people promote is hate."

UW system leaders don't necessarily agree. The policy states that students who engage in violence or other disorderly conduct that disrupts others’ free speech would be suspended and if it happens more than twice the student would be expelled. 

“It’s potentially punished for misconduct," James Hill said. "[Students] can speak out, they can still demonstrate, they can still protest, those things are still available to them."

Associate Vice Chancellor James Hill said students would only be punished if they disrupt the event to the point that it has to be shut down, but some students contend regardless of how the policy is read, it still isn’t right. 

“Even if that is how the policy is read, to control someone’s protest and the way they protest is limiting their speech," Ravanna Bonds-El said. "Especially on these campuses where you already feel marginalized."

It could take some time before the policy actually goes into effect. The System still has to write administrative rules implementing the policy and Governor Walker and lawmakers would have to sign off on those rules. 
 

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