Last week, the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents reaffirmed their commitment to freedom of expression with the resolution below. The board adopted a lengthier resolution in December 2015, also below.
Assembly Bill 299, dubbed the Campus Free Speech Act, passed the Assembly Wednesday, June 21 on a 61-36 vote. Republican Bob Gannon of West Bend joined the Democrats in opposing the bill. A statement of PROFS’ opposition to the bill is here.
Representative Jesse Kremer (R-Kewaskum), the bill’s main author, maintains the legislation is necessary to ensure all voices are heard on campus, citing incidents at Middlebury College and the University of California-Berkeley as evidence that free speech is stifled on college campuses.
PROFS lobbied against the bill, noting that in 2010 the University of Wisconsin Faculty Senate adopted a policy (Faculty Document 2186) that protects speech on campus. In 2015, the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents adopted a resolution affirming academic freedom, including free speech, on all UW campuses.
Under the amended bill (below), the Board of Regents would be required to adopt a policy that would apply to all UW System institutions and supersede any existing Regent or campus policies. The legislation also requires mandatory punishments for students violators and employee and new student training on free speech annually.
The bill now moves to the State Senate.
PROFS is registered against Assembly Bill 299, legislation that would require the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents to adopt a policy on free expression on all two and four-year campuses. This new policy would supersede any previous Regent rules or individual campus policies.
The Assembly Colleges and Universities Committee is scheduled to vote on an amended version of AB 299 at 1:30 pm, Tuesday, May 30.
In 2010, the UW-Madison Faculty Senate amended its Faculty Policies and Procedures to provide “principled protection for faculty engaged in speech pursuant to their official duties.” The amendment (below) also provided a definition of academic freedom.
The Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee statewide public hearings on the 2017-19 budget proposal last month and began voting on individual items last week. PROFS is meeting with university and legislative leaders to discuss several items in the budget proposal:
State funding tied to performance measures The Board of Regents would rank all UW institutions and distribute funds based on:
- Affordability/Attainability, 30%
- Student Success in State Workforce, 30%
- Work Readiness, 15%
- Efficiency, 10%
- Additional Criteria, 15%
UW Pay plan A pay plan tied to presumed savings from a switch to self-insurance (see below) for all state employees would be offered in 2018 and 2019.
Policy Items in the budget The co-chairs of the Joint Finance Committee said last month all policy items in the budget would be removed, but could be considered after being vetted in committee or as part of the committee’s omnibus motion. Several policy items dealt with the university:
- Require the Board of Regents to create policies for the monitoring and reporting of teaching workload and a mechanism to reward those who teach more than an undefined “standard academic workload.”
- Add language to state statutes that would give the university new power to regulate expression and criticism of that expression.
- Allow students to opt out of allocable segregated fees.
- Require institutions to develop 3-year degree programs.
- Require students to have internship/work experience before graduating.
- Require 60 credits transferable between UW and WTCS.
The Group Insurance Board recommended a switch to self-insurance beginning in 2018, but the Joint Finance Committee must review the proposed changes before they go into effect. The committee received the formal recommendation to switch to self-insurance today and has 21 days to decide whether or not to reject the plan. The committee co-chairs and other members have publicly expressed concern over the plan in the past.
Video from the PROFS/ASPRO forum on self-insurance is here.
Campus Free Speech Legislation
Several legislators, including the chairs of the Legislature’s higher education committees, announced their plans to introduce legislation that would direct the Board of Regents to draft a free speech policy that encourages all points of view. Regents would also be required to create rules that discipline students who interfere with campus free speech. PROFS is concerned about the reach of these proposals and has begun working with UW free speech experts on a response to these proposals.
AB 299 (below), sponsored by Representative Jesse Kremer (R-Kewaskum) was introduced last week, and Senator Leah Vukmir (R-Brookfield) intends to introduce legislation (below) later this month.