UW-Madison Board of Regents Revoke Repressive Protest Policy!

UW-Madison Board of Regents Revoke Repressive Protest Policy!

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Cadin Truesdale started this petition to UW-Madison Board of Regents

We, as students of UW Madison, demand that the Board of Regents to revoke the Commitment to Academic Freedom and Freedom of Expression and revise the current Protest Response Guidelines to respect the right of protestors to express free speech and be  comparable to other big ten schools!

Our Demands:

-Remove the threat of suspension and expulsion for students found in violation of the protest guidelines
-Lift the restrictions on poster size and use, heckling, and blocking audience views
-Cease the practice of providing security to non-university-affiliated groups
-Cease any restriction on legal & peaceful demonstrations in outdoor university spaces

Additional Details:

UW Madison has a proud history of student activism, but in recent years has regressed to imposing a downright tyrrancial protest policy on student activists. There is an extreme imbalance between offense and punishment-- a student who is found to be in violation of the protest guidelines twice will be suspended for a minimum of one semester. Someone who has violated the guidelines three times will be expelled from UW. Below are some violations listed in the current Protest Guidelines, which are considered expellable offenses:

-the use of a poster larger than 8.5x11”
-holding any poster above chest level
-Blocking the view of any audience member
-Producing any noise that interferes with a group’s activities

The University currently uses our tuition dollars and Wisconsin residents’ tax dollars to provide security to non-university groups. This means that students’ own tuition dollars are being used to infringe upon their right to free speech in defense of entirely unaffiliated groups. AND these groups are not even required to issue a warning to student protestors before they use University resources such as paid student affairs staff and UWPD officers to remove students.

Such a strict policy may be more understandable if it were the norm on other campuses across the country, but it’s not.

The University of Michigan clearly expresses its dedication to protecting the right of protestors to free speech just as much as that of any speaker, saying “Protesters have rights, just as do speakers and artists. The standard of ‘undue interference’ must not be invoked lightly, merely to avoid brief interruptions, or to remove distractions or embarrassment”. They also explicitly say that they do not provide security for outside groups. The University of Minnesota does not even have a student-specific protest policy, and instead students have the same rights and responsibilities afforded to them by the First Amendment and their broad Student Conduct Code.

We as concerned students demand that the University lift this restrictive policy, which infringes upon the First Amendment rights of students and is a repugnant stain upon UW Madison’s proud history of activism. Lift this shameful and regressive policy now!

Additional Sources

Michigan’s full protest policy:  https://spg.umich.edu/policy/601.01

University of Minnesota’s Student Conduct Code: https://regents.umn.edu/sites/regents.umn.edu/files/2019-09/policy_student_conduct_code.pdf

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