UW System sends free speech survey to students

MADISON, Wis. (AP) – University of Wisconsin system officials are preparing to send a survey to students seeking their input on free speech rights.

System officials plan to email the survey to undergraduate students at the 13 public universities on Thursday. The questions will focus on what they know about the First Amendment; how much they value freedom of expression; if they see problems with a lack of diverse viewpoints; if they censor themselves; and whether they have ever been sanctioned or punished for exercising their right to freedom of expression.

The survey is designed to meet a regent policy requirement that system officials report annually on institutions’ efforts to uphold academic freedom and freedom of expression. Students will have until May 6 to complete it.

The survey is funded by the Menard Center for Public Policy and Service at UW-Stout.

Republican lawmakers have pushed UW officials to crack down on students who disrupt conservative speakers and presentations. House Republicans introduced a bill in December that would have prohibited institutions from restricting when and where speech can take place and from punishing someone based on their views. Violators would have lost state grants and would have been required to tell student applicants that they had been sanctioned.

The bill never got a floor vote before the end of the two-year legislative session last month.

Christy J. Olson