On Oct. 6, the UW-System Board of Regents approved a Commitment to Academic Freedom of Expression policy.
This policy was built following past policy changes to set standards for students who may use their free speech to impede the speech of others in ways not congruent with the nature of academic discourse.
Throughout the UW-System schools have been struggling with the decision of what actions should be taken when students make the decision to act out, or speak out, when a visiting speaker is presenting.
The board of regents hopes the policy change will lead to a consistent learning experience on all campuses across the system.
Regent President, John Robert Behling, said in news release from the UW-System that through this policy, the regents are informing students and taxpayers that they can provide a world-class education in an atmosphere where civility, respect, and safety is required and expected.
Sanctions such as expulsion and suspension, are just some of the actions continually disruptive students may face.
However, the definition of disruptive is left flexible, and ultimately up to the university to decide. Multiple actions could be considered disruptive such as interrupting a public speaker’s presentation, impeding another student’s ability to participate, obstructing a university ran event as well as several other instances.
Regent José Delgado expressed support for the policy in a media release while describing his childhood growing up in Cuba.
“I lived under a government that tightened the grip on public opinion, which ultimately led to violence. We must open our mind to rational discourse. I feel the pain when I hear an opinion I vehemently disagree with, but any limitation to this type of conversation cannot be accepted. And it would be a scandal to do so at our university, which is why I support this policy,” Delgado said.
While this new policy states that the university cannot force a student, or employee of the university, to agree with, make a stance, or take a certain position on a public policy issue, it does require the university to talk about freedom of expression to transfer and freshman students upon their arrival.
Due to suspension and expulsion being such high disciplinary sanctions, there are guidelines in order for these actions to occur. If a student is found being disruptive twice, then they are to be suspended. If a student is found being disruptive three times, then they face expulsion. However, once again, what is considered disruptive is at the discretion of the university.
The policy sanctions will not be in effect until the UWS Administrative Code 17 has been updated.