Conservative commentator and Townhall.com News Editor Katie Pavlich was able to speak about the right to carry guns on college campuses without interruption Tuesday night at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. While she spoke, about twenty protesters (according to the Daily Cardinal) were outside the hall waving phalluses and sex toys in opposition to Pavlich’s appearance.
The protest may have been silly or even disturbing to those attending the speech. And while we can imagine the outrage and charges of sexual harassment if a conservative group did the same type of protest to a leftwing female speaker, the protest was peaceful.
What was the difference between the Pavlich appearance and a speech by Ben Shapiro a year ago when he was shouted down several times by protesters? The University of Wisconsin System has a new speech code protecting the free speech rights of public speakers invited to campus.
The new policy requires universities to suspend protesters that violate the policy twice by “violent or other disorderly misconduct that materially and substantially” interferes with a speaker on campus. A third offense means expulsion.
The policy is already changing the protesters’ behavior. Just ask Kat Kerwin, the apparent leader of the protests.
“Kerwin said the regents’ free speech proposal ‘definitely changed the way’ the group protested this event, but that it is still important to push the limits of campus protests,” the Daily Cardinal reported. “She said the group will ‘save disrupting protests’ for speakers who they think are inciting violence.”
Kerwin had previously spoken out against the policy because of the limit it places on leftwing mobs to drown out speech or otherwise disrupt speech they don’t like.
We should still be concerned that Kerwin takes it upon herself to decide when a speaker is “inciting violence.” After all, the protest organizing Facebook page said of the invitation to Pavlich to speak on campus, “It is an obvious attempt to divide our campus and perpetuate violence.”
All the more reason then for the state legislature to actually codify the speech-protecting policy lest some future Board of Regents goes wobbly and repeals the policy.