The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents passed a policy to punish students who interfere with campus speakers’ abilities to deliver their message. The Commitment to Academic Freedom and Freedom of Expression policy can be found here.
This policy addresses what the Regents felt were efforts across college campuses to obstruct what they deemed as the ability to “explore all avenues of scholarship, research, and creative expression, and to reach conclusions according to one’s own scholarly discernment” (10-4-17 Draft). The policy may also be a response to incidents that occurred on the UW-Milwaukee campus when a then-Breibart writer was brought to campus by a new campus organization with an aim to “educate students ‘about the importance of fiscal responsibility, free markets, and limited government’” (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 12/14/16). This incident was not unique to the Milwaukee campus or to Wisconsin.
Sanctions established by the Regents include written reports to charges of misconduct to formal hearings that may result in suspension or expulsion. See the discussions in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Inside Higher Education, and The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Implications to English language arts/NCTE
This policy may empower students to express unpopular opinions and bring to campus speakers who may continue to incite campus unrest. The policy may also shut down students from protesting speakers with whom they disagree in fear that their right to free speech will result in campus sanctions. English departments, as well as Schools of Education, often where college students learn argumentation and focus on equity in schools, may need to address First Amendment Rights advocacy more closely and design lessons that teach respectful disagreement.