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Protecting free speech: Proposed law will expel hecklers from campus

Jeremy Papasso/Daily Camera via AP

Rather than just complaining, Wisconsin’s state Assembly decided to do something about the debate over free speech on college campuses.

Republicans passed a bill, known as “The Campus Free Speech Act,” on Thursday that would give college administrators license to discipline and even expel students for disrupting speakers during events on their campus. Not a single Democrat voted for the bill.

The bill was welcomed by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who fully intends on signing the bill into law.

“Thanks to the Assembly for their commitment to free speech on UW campuses,” Walker wrote on Twitter.

There’s certainly precedent for Wisconsin Republicans to draft such a bill. Around the country, conservative speakers and students have been shut down and threatened with violence simply because of their attempts to engage in dialogue and political discussion.

“Repeatedly, we’ve seen students shouted down and silenced by those in disagreement and unconstitutional policies that violate the First Amendment on the books at the UW,” State Rep. Jesse Kremer (R-Kewaskum), the bill’s lead sponsor, said in a statement. “The Campus Free Speech Act will end the unconstitutional ‘heckler’s veto’ and create a behavioral shift on campus.”

Both Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter were shut down from speaking at UC-Berkeley, Charles Murray faced tons of backlash while speaking at Middlebury College, and Ben Shapiro’s talk at the University of Wisconsin was drowned out in protests, boos, and jeers.

While the law would basically run as a “three-strikes” rule where students could be suspended for multiple offenses before they’re expelled, it could present a slippery slope in the argument of free speech protected by the First Amendment. What’s interesting in all of this is that this bill suddenly got Democrats to care about the First Amendment and free speech on campus for once.

“It basically gags and bags the First Amendment,” State Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison) told the Associated Press.

“Our colleges and universities should be a place to vigorously debate ideas and ultimately learn from one another,” State Rep. Lisa Subeck (D-Madison) said, reported the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “Instead, this campus gag rule creates an atmosphere of fear where free expression and dissent are discouraged.”

Maybe if more Democrats spoke out sooner in defense of free speech on college campuses, local governments wouldn’t have to step in in order to police it.

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