MADISON, Wis. — The University of Wisconsin Board of Regents is poised to codify as policy and insert into the state administrative code the provisions of potentially unconstitutional legislation to restrict free speech on UW campuses currently stalled in the state legislature. The measure would threaten students with sanctions, including suspension and expulsion, if they engage in conduct deemed to have “disrupted” a speaker.
“The Board of Regents is threatening the First Amendment rights of students, faculty and administrators as they pander to right-wing Republican politicians and the right-wing money machine to whom they answer,” said One Wisconsin Now Research Associate and UW-Madison student Savion Castro. “Their actions will result in the creation of campus safe spaces for right-wing provocateurs to engage in racist, misogynistic and xenophobic speech.”
Despite existing laws on the books allowing disorderly conduct to be prosecuted and no incidents of right-wing speakers being prevented from delivering remarks on UW campuses, Assembly Bill 299 (AB 299), upon which the Regents proposal is based, threatens students with expulsion for exercising their First Amendment right to denounce hate speech on University of Wisconsin campuses.
Casto noted that, according to drafting records obtained by One Wisconsin Now, AB 299 is based on recommendations produced by the Goldwater Institute, an Arizona-based think tank whose operations are underwritten by some of the largest right-wing funders including the Bradley, Koch and Walton foundations.
The Milwaukee based right wing mega funder Bradley Foundation was until recently run by Gov. Walker’s longtime campaign chair Michael Grebe. Grebe’s son was appointed as a regent by Walker in 2015 and currently serves on the board along with 16 other Walker appointees. The only non-Walker pick is the elected State Superintendent of the Department of Public Instruction.
He concluded, “The unconstitutional bill proposed by Republicans in the legislature will be an unconstitutional policy if adopted by the Board of Regents.”