The Latest: UW regents OK protest punishment policy - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

The Latest: UW regents OK protest punishment policy

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MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The University of Wisconsin System's leaders have approved a policy that calls for suspending and expelling students who disrupt campus speeches and presentations.

The Board of Regents approved the policy on a voice vote Friday at UW-Stout. State schools Superintendent Tony Evers cast the lone dissenting vote.

The policy states that students who twice engage in violent or other disorderly conduct that disrupts others' free speech would be suspended for a semester. A third offense would mean expulsion.

The policy comes as conservatives fear right-wing speakers aren't treated with the same respect on campus as liberals. It mirrors a Republican bill that's moving through the Legislature.

Democrats contend the policy is so vague that it's unconstitutional and will chill free speech.


Posted Oct. 5, 2017:

Menomonie (WQOW) - UW campuses may soon have a new policy that would punish students for disrupting speakers during presentations. Students at UW-Stout are worried it limits their rights to free speech.

The proposal came up after incidents like the one that happened at the University of California-Berkeley in early 2017. During the incident, officials had to cancel a speech from Conservative Commentator Ann Coulter because of threats of violence.

The UW Board of Regents met at UW-Stout to discuss many topics, including the freedom of expression policy.

"When I read and watch videos about what happened at Berkley as a parent with a student in the system you worry. I think that by having a policy in place it sends a message to students and tax payers that the University of Wisconsin is a place where it's a world class education but we are going to communicate in a safe and civil environment," said john Behling, the president of the UW Board of Regents.

The UW Board of Regents will discuss the new policy on Friday. The Wisconsin State Assembly passed the policy in June.

It would allow campus officials to punish students if they disrupt a presenter and it gets out of hand.

"We as a board felt it was important to talk about the matter to put together a draft policy so that if the situations do occur we have a systematic policy that works for every campus across the state," Behling said.

UW campuses would be able to suspend students who disrupt free expression twice, and if a third occurrence happened, that student would be expelled from the university.

News 18 spoke with UW-Stout students on Thursday, and they said they feel like the policy could challenge the first amendment.

"If it's for voicing their opinion just verbally, and it's not violent or malicious, I think that might be a little extreme if you're going to take someone completely out of their school. If it does become violent or physical, I think it's absolutely necessary to kick someone out of their campus," said Donovan Huyck, a student at UW-Stout.

Many students agreed with Huyck and said if disruptions during a presentation would end up turning violence, there should be consequences.

"I think it should only happen if it would get violent. I think that's when it's a problem, but you should still have freedom of speech and you should be able to say what you want but in a respectful manner," said Morgan Kennealy, a student at UW-Stout.

The UW Board of Regents will vote on the freedom of expression policy on Friday, and it's expected to pass. Those guidelines of punishment would be put in place immediately. 

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