Last week, Wisconsin State Representative Jesse Kremer introduced the Wisconsin Campus Free Speech Act. Kremer’s bill is based on the model campus free speech legislation I co-authored along with Jim Manley and Jonathan Butcher of Arizona’s Goldwater Institute.
A statement released by Kremer forthrightly condemns the reigning leftist-inspired anti-speech orthodoxy on campus. Yet Kremer rightly notes that threats to freedom of speech can come from the right as well as the left, and that free speech ultimately protects everyone.
Kremer’s bill has already garnered significant support. In addition to co-sponsorship from Rep. Dave Murphy and Sen. Sheila Harsdorf, the bill is co-sponsored by the Speaker of the Wisconsin State Assembly, Robin Vos.
And Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has also expressed support for the bill. Asked to comment on the Wisconsin Campus Free Speech Act in an interview, Walker said: “To me, a university should be precisely the spot where you have an open and free dialogue about all different positions. But the minute you shut down a speaker, no matter whether they are liberal or conservative or somewhere in between, I just think that’s wrong.”
Walker was highlighting one of the distinctive features of bills based on the Goldwater proposal. The Wisconsin Campus Free Speech Act ensures that public universities will establish a range of disciplinary sanctions to deal with speaker shout-downs, ensures that students at freshman orientation will be informed of the principles of free speech and the penalties for speaker shout-downs, and establishes a system of oversight by the University Board of Regents to ensure that administrators will enforce the sanctions policy.
Of the various bills on campus free-speech introduced around the country, only bills based on the Goldwater proposal work to discourage speaker shout-downs. Yet, as I argued in “Understanding the Campus Free Speech Crisis,” speaker shout-downs and the need to sanction those who participate in them are at the very heart of the campus free-speech problem.
As the campus free-speech crisis has come to a head, more states have begun to introduce bills based on the Goldwater proposal. Last week, along with Kremer’s Wisconsin bill, Sen. Patrick Colbeck introduced two bills based on the Goldwater proposal in Michigan. And as I will shortly detail here at the Corner, a bill based on the Goldwater proposal has just been introduced in California.
Speaker shout-downs are at the heart of the campus free-speech crisis, and Wisconsin now has legislation that addresses this and many other aspects of the problem. With support from Assembly Speaker Vos and Governor Walker, the Wisconsin Campus Free Speech Act has a very real chance of passage.
Stanley Kurtz is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org