American Elephants

A Small Step Forward on Campus Disruptions by The Elephant's Child

It has come to this—the University of Wisconsin administration is, “taking steps to crack down on protesters who push their right to free speech and protest to the point where they shout down or entirely shut out speakers with whom they disagree.”

University of Wisconsin System leaders approved a policy Friday that calls for suspending and expelling students who disrupt campus speeches and presentations, saying students need to listen to all sides of issues and arguments.

The Board of Regents adopted the language on a voice vote during a meeting at the University of Wisconsin-Stout in Menomonie. The policy states that students found to have twice engaged in violence or other disorderly conduct that disrupts others’ free speech would be suspended. Students found to have disrupted others’ free expression three times would be expelled.

“Perhaps the most important thing we can do as a university is to teach students how to engage and listen to those with whom they differ,” system President Ray Cross told the regents. “If we don’t show students how to do this, who will? Without civil discourse and a willingness to listen and engage with different voices, all we are doing is reinforcing our existing values.”

The astonishing thing is that this perfectly reasonable step has become news. Ben Shapiro was shouted down at the University of Wisconsin-Madison last year. Jazz Shaw, author of the piece,raises questions about “who determines what differentiates disruption from legitimate protest?” What about protesters who are not students? And asks what is a disruption and what is protesting and expressing an opposing opinion?

How about just plain bad manners? Why is it acceptable to protest an invited speaker? Why does someone have the right to keep others from hearing a speech? Seems to me that someone who disrupts a speech should be quietly removed from the room. Why do they get to engage in violence or disorderly conduct twice before they get suspended? The University of Wisconsin seems to be on the right track, but way too wishy-washy.

Student protests seem to be all the rage, quite fashionable. In most cases an example of student ignorance and bad manners. I think immediately of the misguided protests against Charles Murray and Heather MacDonald at Middlebury and Claremont respectively. It is the students who are violating Constitutional rights of free speech, not engaging in it. And part of a University’s job of turning out responsible citizens might be teaching about basic manners.

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