Despite assertions of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) to the contrary, the Wisconsin Board of Regents under Republican Governor Scott Walker have actually reaffirmed their commitment to academic freedom in the state university system.
Peter Wood of the National Association of Scholars (NAS) has helpfully given us the highlights of their most recent statement in the new NAS report on academic freedom. In some ways, the regents go beyond current practice in respecting academic freedom.
“Although members of the university community at each institution are free to criticize and
contest the views expressed on campus, they may not obstruct or otherwise interfere with the
freedom of others, including speakers who are invited to campus, to express views they reject
or even loathe,” the regents aver.
The Regents do note that ““The freedom to debate and discuss the merits of competing ideas does not mean
that members of the university community may say whatever they wish, wherever they
wish. Consistent with longstanding practice informed by law, institutions within the System
may restrict expression that violates the law, that falsely defames a specific individual, that
constitutes a genuine threat or harassment, that unjustifiably invades substantial privacy
or confidentiality interests, or that is otherwise directly incompatible with the functioning
of the university. In addition, the institutions may reasonably regulate the time, place, and
manner of expression to ensure that it does not disrupt ordinary activities. But these are
narrow exceptions to the general principle of freedom of expression, and it is vitally important
that these exceptions never be used in a manner that is inconsistent with each institution’s
commitment to a completely free and open discussion of ideas.”