Republicans Want to Punish Students Who Shut Down Controvers
Republican lawmakers are wading into the intensifying debate over free speech on campus, proposing legislation in at least half a dozen states to regulate student protests and discipline hecklers.
Inspired by a spate of recent demonstrations that shut down controversial conservative speakers at universities from Vermont to California, Republicans are seeking more formal punishments for students who disrupt speeches, including expulsion.
#8220All across the nation and here at home, we#8217ve seen protesters trying to silence different viewpoints,#8221 Speaker of the Wisconsin State Assembly Robin Vos, a Republican, said in a statement last week, announcing the Free Speech on Campus Act. #8220We need more speech, not less; itrsquos time to put in appropriate measures to ensure all speech is protected at our universities.#8221
In the past few months, schools across the country have struggled to handle protests and counter-protests that derailed events featuring controversial speakers. Conservative writer Charles Murray was shouted down and then physically confronted by protesters who surrounded his car at Vermont#8217s Middlebury College. Peaceful protests turned violent and resulted in more than $100,000 in damage at the University of California, Berkeley, forcing the cancellation of an event with far-right pundit Milo Yiannopoulos. Last week, conservative pundit Ann Coulter canceled her event at Berkeley, calling it a #8220dark day for free speech in America#8221 after a lengthy back-and-forth that culminated in the Berkeley College Republicans suing the university.The Brief Newsletter Sign up to receive the top stories you need to know right now. View Sample Sign Up Now
The proposed Wisconsin law would require students to be suspended for at least one semester or expelled if they are twice found responsible for #8220interfering with the expressive rights of others.#8221 The bill also requires that campuses be open to all speakers who are invited and asks that universities strive to remain neutral on public policy issues.
The bill, which would only apply to state universities, is similar to legislation currently under consideration in Illinois, Michigan, North Carolina, Texas and Virginia, according to the conservative Goldwater Institute, which drafted the bill after which they#8217re modeled.
Those who support the legislation and those who oppose it all say they have the same aim: to shore up freedom of expression on campus. But their approaches differ mdash with liberals calling for the right to protest views they deem offensive, while conservatives say they want to protect space for unpopular ideas that spark disagreement.