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Evers Squashes Conservative Speech

Empower Wisconsin | Oct. 15, 2019

MADISON — Gov Tony Evers wants to give conservatives the silencing treatment. 

As Empower Wisconsin recently reported, Evers made it clear he was no fan of a University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents policy to punish students who try to disrupt or shut down free expression on campus. 

On Friday, Evers made it official: he will kill that plan. 

The governor’s spokeswoman flaunted that fact on Friday. Melissa Baldauff told the Associated Press that there’s no mechanism for Republican legislators to override Evers’ action. 

“His position hasn’t changed on it,” Baldauff told the news organization. “He didn’t approve of it when he was on the Board of Regents and he still disagrees with the policy.”

Evers, as superintendent of the Department of Public Instruction, was the single dissenting vote on the disciplinary policy in 2017, when regents first approved a plan that would, on a third offense, expel students who attempted to stifle free expression. Violators would face suspension for a semester after two offences.

The policy was drafted after high-profile incidents of liberal students trying to silence conservative speakers. In November 2016, a group of protesters disrupted and effectively shut down conservative political commentator Ben Shapiro’s speech at UW-Madison.

The policy has languished for nearly two years as the regents delayed acting on system rules to update the policy. On Friday they authorized system staff to update the rules.  

State Sen. Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield) authored a similar bill in the Legislature, one that Evers most likely would veto. 

“Free speech and open debate are foundational principles of the college experience,” Kapenga said in a statement. “When intimidation, threats, and organized disruption are used in the name of free speech, it violates those priniciples. The Governor says he doesn’t support negative consequence for these actions.”

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