Support of the UW Freedom of Expression Policy

Cal Bunge-

Free speech and the right to protest free speech has come to the forefront of American politics in recent years, especially as it pertains to college campuses. Dramatic scenes like the ones at University of California Berkeley are rare, but they do raise questions about what role university administrators should play in allowing free speech while still allowing protests. The Wisconsin Board of Regents, the board that oversees the entire UW system, decided to tackle that issue. The Board’s policy, commonly referred to as the Freedom of Expression policy, primarily enhances the punishment students or faculty would incur if they chose to partake in unlawful protests. The policy, which was approved on October 6th, requires the suspension of a student that is twice found guilty of disrupting a university event and the expulsion of a student that is found guilty three times. Across the state, students detested the idea of getting expelled for protesting three times. Being a student of UW Stout, the school hosting the Board of Regents meeting where the policy was approved, I saw first hand the disapproval many students felt. Opponents claimed that the policy would restrict student’s right to assemble and enforce harsh penalties. I intended on going to the Board of Regents meeting and I did not want to go unprepared, so I read the entire policy. What I found was that the policy does not restrict student’s right to protest at all. In fact, the policy did not create any new rules, it only enforces new penalties. I believe that these new penalties provide necessary protections for free speech while still allowing peaceful protests. For that reason, I chose to support the Freedom of Expression policy. My view is that you can do whatever floats your boat, as long as it doesn’t sink mine. Students may protest however they feel necessary as long as others can still speak freely.