A new study shows that at least half of Wisconsin’s college campuses are restricting speech on campus and “free speech is indeed under serious threat on university and college campuses in Wisconsin.”

The study, 2020 Wisconsin Speech Code Review, by the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL), used a rating system developed by Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) which uses traffic lights to symbolize the state of free speech on a college campus. A red light means the college or university is restricting free speech while a green light means free speech is protected.

No Wisconsin institutions of higher education were rated green for free speech by WILL.

“Free speech is under attack on Wisconsin’s college campuses,” said WILL Deputy Counsel Anthony LoCoco. “This review should serve as a resource to students, faculty, administrators, boards, and taxpayers to ensure that Wisconsin’s college campuses respect the First Amendment and encourage free and open debate.”

WILL, a conservative legal and public policy organization, has fought for freedom of speech on Wisconsin college campuses in cases involving Marquette University Political Science Professor John McAdams and Polly Olsen, a student at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College who was stopped from handing out Valentines by campus authorities.

Despite a policy supporting free speech at University of Wisconsin (UW) System universities, the Speech Code Review study found 33% of University of Wisconsin four-year colleges were rated red by WILL. At least six Wisconsin schools have Bias Response Systems with Bias Response Teams to investigate speech on campuses, including University of Wisconsin four-year schools at Platteville, Stevens Point, Superior, River Falls and Whitewater.

Technical colleges fared worse. WILL’s study gave a red rating to 75% of Wisconsin’s technical colleges. “This suggests that constitutionally-protected speech is being systematically threatened on technical college campuses in Wisconsin,” the study said. “It also fits with recent anecdotal evidence.”

Overall, the study reviews 43 public and private colleges and universities. Each one has an individual entry in the study that can be read by parents, students, administrators and even lawmakers.

In the case of UW System schools, the study notes that many of the policies that restrict speech are in violation of the free speech policy of the Board of Regents. However, the legislature can do more to protect speech at UW campuses.

“For instance, it should codify {UW System free speech} Policy Document 4-21 and make even clearer that speech-restrictive policies are repugnant to and preempted under Wisconsin law,” the study notes. “And it should enact safeguards targeting some of the frequently-recurring problems already identified.”