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A Wisconsin bill that would expel students for 'disrupting' speakers moves forward

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A Wisconsin bill designed to expel or suspend students who disrupt college speakers could possibly come into effect this upcoming  fall.

The Republican-backed legislation, called the Campus Free Speech Act was approved by The Assembly Committee on Colleges and Universities on June 21.

The office of Rep. Kremer(R-WI) told Circa that the bill  was drafted to protect the First Amendment rights of campus speakers.

“Repeatedly, we’ve seen students shouted down and silenced by those in disagreement and unconstitutional policies that violate the First Amendment on the books at the UW." Kremer said in a statement. "The Campus Free Speech Act will end the unconstitutional “heckler’s veto” and create a behavioral shift on campus."

But some disagree with the bill. All six Democrats on the committee voted against the bill last week, warning that it could potential stifle student's free speech on campus.

Rep. Lisa Subeck (D-WI) tweeted that the bill "sets atmosphere of fear."

"For now, free speech is alive and well on campuses across Wisconsin, but that could change if the Campus Gag Rule is signed into law. Republicans fail to recognize that we protect free speech by exercising it, not by restricting it.” Subeck said. 

Under the legislation, college students in the UW system could face a disciplinary hearing if they receive two or more complaints about disruptive conduct during a speech or presentation. 

If a student is found responsible for “interfering with the expressive rights of others,” the bill would require that the student be suspended for a minimum of one semester. A third violation would possibly result in expulsion. 

Jillian Aragon, a rising sophomore at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told Circa that the bill "would instill more fear in voicing opinion."

"I cannot imagine the bill benefiting the growth of opinion or knowledge on Madison's college campus," she said. "It is clear that the bill is meant to censor students."

The Wisconsin bill comes after months of student led protests against campus speakers in Wisconsin and across the country.

In November UW-Madison students shouted down former Breitbart editor and conservative columnist Ben Shapiro. A few months after, protests and riots broke out at that the University of California-Berkeley in February due to a planned appearance  on campus by former Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos.

The bill is expected to go before the Senate late September.

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