The decision by the student government at UW-Stevens Point to deny recognition to students attempting to form a chapter of Turning Point USA is a sign of a wider intolerance of free speech on college campuses.
On the Stevens Point campus, free speech has not been highly valued. In 2015, the UW-Stevens Point Administration issued a list of “racial microaggressions” that included phrases like “America is a melting pot.” While they claimed the list was not a ban on using those phrases in speech on campus, clearly it was an attempt by the administration to put a chill on public debate.
In 2008, the Stevens Point campus attracted national attention when the student government president tore down a pro-life display and it was captured on YouTube. The excuse he gave? “In 1973 it was made a constitutional right for a woman to have an abortion…Since it’s a right, you don’t have the right to challenge it.”
As both the legislature and the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents have debated creating a disciplinary code to protect free speech on UW campuses, opposition has largely come from a leftwing intent on protecting the power of their mobs to shout down any speakers with whom they disagree. Unfortunately, the leftwing students that wish to protect this power of an angry mob have been supported by members of the state legislature and even groups like One Wisconsin Now.
It appears that instead of waiting for a group like Turning Point USA to bring in a speaker that might cause the local student lefties heartburn, they’ve decided to pre-empt the matter from denying the conservative students the right to organize. We shouldn’t be surprised. The student government is only doing what the adults are teaching them, which is shut down free speech they don’t like.
During the previously mention debate about the UW System’s new disciplinary code protecting free speech, UWSP Provost and Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs Greg Summers was asked by WSAW-TV about free speech on campus. “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 said.
If Summers really believes what he said, he won’t hesitate to overrule the student government and grant Turning Point USA recognition by the campus.
But more important, this is a lesson of why the state legislature needs to codify the recent free speech code created by the Board of Regents. As we’re learning the hard way, universities cannot be trusted to protect free speech.