UWSP: Free speech bill: "Balance is key"

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STEVENS POINT, Wis. (WSAW) -- While many disruptive protest have been making headlines on campuses nationwide, many students at University of Wisconsin- Stevens Point said it's a different story.

"I haven't seen it here on our campus here specifically," UWSP student Rachel Kleine said.

Nonetheless, the university is just one of several UW campuses that will be subject to the UW Free Speech bill recently passed by the Wisconsin Assembly, if it becomes law.

UWSP Provost and Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs Greg Summers said open discussion and debate is a crucial part of a college experience.

"That you could come on a college campus and say things that may be unpopular and debate and discuss, and disagree with one another, that's exactly what universities are about," Summers explained.

But he is not sold that the UW free speech bill is the solution to maintaining those ideals. He believes the legislation has good intentions but is wary of what may be unintended consequences as well, and may instead curb free speech for people who want to protest.

"We don't want anyone to feel intimidated when they express their views on campus, and I'm a little concerned this law may have some unintended consequences along those lines," Summers said.

Rather than suspend or expel, he believes balance may be the key.

"I think the articulation of that set of consequences in the form of a law is perhaps a bit heavy handed," Summers explained.

"Finding a good balance of what protests are allowed at campuses and at least allowing whatever they're protesting to still continue I think is important," Kleine added.

The common PR director for the UWSP Student Government Associations said the organization is monitoring and paying close attention to the bill, and gathering feedback from other students.

The bill heads to the Senate next. Governor Scott Walker has spoken positively of the idea.