UNITED STATES NEWS

Free speech, racial equity battles play out on Wisconsin campuses

May 10, 2023, 9:09 PM

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The fight over racial equity and free speech on Wisconsin college campuses is intensifying, mirroring a national battle as Republicans work to close campus diversity offices and demand students and faculty treat conservative speakers with respect.

In just the past two weeks, the state’s top Republican announced a push to defund the University of Wisconsin System’s diversity efforts — a move the Democratic governor lambasted as ridiculous. A student from UW-Madison posted racial slurs online, triggering bitter protests but no announced discipline. And a state medical college canceled a diversity symposium featuring Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson out of concerns the discussion would be too disruptive, resulting in cries of bias from conservatives.

Amid that backdrop, Republican legislative leaders are set to hold a hearing Thursday with only invited speakers to discuss “how the lack of free speech and intellectual diversity on college campuses affects the quality of higher education.” The speakers include John Sailer, policy director at the National Association of Scholars, a conservative group that advocates against diversity policies, and Tim Higgins, a former UW regent appointed by former Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

“I think people are talking about viewpoint diversity as being as important or more important than other types of diversity,” said Republican Rep. David Murphy, chairman of the state Assembly’s colleges committee, who will preside over the hearing. “And I think (diversity efforts aren’t) showing any benefits.”

Paulette Granberry Russell, president of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education, said it’s disheartening to see a hearing on free speech with only invited speakers. She said the GOP is trying to paint diversity offices as giving minorities an unfair advantage when they’re only trying to help everyone understand a broad range of perspectives.

“Contrary to those opposed to these offices, our work includes protecting free speech,” she said.

Republicans argue that diversity offices, designed to help minorities navigate academia, only heighten racial tensions. And the GOP has maintained for years that colleges don’t give conservative presenters the same opportunities as liberals to speak on campus.

A survey released in February by the UW System, which includes 13 four-year schools, found almost half of the students who responded at least somewhat agree that administrators should bar controversial speakers if some students find the message offensive.

The issues have bubbled to the forefront this month, starting with Assembly Speaker Robin Vos’ announcement last week that he wants to defund campus diversity offices. He called the offices a waste of taxpayer dollars and said they exacerbate the racial divide.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has called Vos’ proposal “ridiculous,” but Vos’ plan tracks with a national GOP push to dismantle campus diversity offices.

Republican lawmakers in at least a dozen states have proposed more than 30 diversity, equity and inclusion efforts in higher education, according to an analysis by The Associated Press using the bill-tracking software Plural. Some proposals would ban DEI offices or any funding for them. Others would forbid administrators from considering diversity as part of the hiring or admissions process.

Around the same time as Vos’ announcement, a white UW-Madison student posted a racist screed online in which she said she wants to see some Black people enslaved so she can abuse them. The post triggered two days of protests on Wisconsin’s flagship campus with students demanding the student be expelled. University officials condemned the posting but said they can’t take action against legal free speech.

Meanwhile, officials at the Medical College of Wisconsin decided to cancel Friday’s campus symposium focusing on “the uses and abuses” of government-sponsored diversity programming on college campuses and in medical, science and tech education.

The college’s president, John Raymond Sr., sent a message May 4 to students and staff saying he canceled the symposium because discussions about the event have become “unacceptably disruptive.” Raymond issued the message on the same day as one of the UW-Madison protests.

Johnson was slated to take part in the symposium along with Sailer, who posted a copy of a letter that faculty sent to Raymond on April 30 saying they opposed the “pseudo-academic and potentially harmful meeting.”

“Discourse that is politically motivated and not rooted in evidence adds nothing to the MCW learning community and makes our learners feel unsafe,” the letter said.

Sailer tweeted that the letter was a “textbook hecklers veto.” Johnson’s office said the symposium will now be held online but the senator said in a statement that he hopes to meet with medical college leaders to discuss why they felt they couldn’t host the event.

United States News

Associated Press

Ohio man gets probation after pleading guilty to threatening North Caroilna legislator

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — An Ohio man received supervised probation after pleading guilty to threatening to kill a North Carolina state senator in a social media message last year. Nicolas Alan Daniels, of West Portsmouth, Ohio, entered a plea to one felony count of threatening a legislative officer last Thursday in Wake County court, according […]

43 minutes ago

Associated Press

House Ethics Committee will investigate Rep. Henry Cuellar after his federal indictment

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House Ethics Committee is opening an investigation into Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, after his indictment earlier this month on allegations of bribery, money laundering and working on behalf of a foreign government. The committee said Wednesday that it voted unanimously to take the rare step of pursuing an investigation into Cuellar, […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Murder trial ordered in Michigan killing that stoked anti-immigrant campaign rhetoric

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — A man accused of killing his Michigan girlfriend after returning to the U.S. following deportation was ordered Wednesday to stand trial for murder. The case against Brandon Ortiz Vite, a Mexican citizen, became a political flashpoint in April when former President Donald Trump accused the Biden administration of failing to […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Authorities arrest man allegedly running “likely world’s largest ever” cybercrime botnet

WASHINGTON (AP) — An international law enforcement team has arrested a Chinese national and disrupted a major botnet that officials said he ran for nearly a decade, amassing at least $99 million in profits by reselling access to criminals who used it for identity theft, child exploitation and financial fraud including pandemic relief scams. The […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

New Orleans mystery: Human skull padlocked to a dumbbell is pulled out of water by a fisherman

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A human skull padlocked to an exercise dumbbell has been fished out of a New Orleans waterway, leaving police with a mystery on their hands. The skull was found earlier this month by a man using a red rope and a magnet the size of a hockey puck on a bridge […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

A nurse honored for compassion is fired after referring in speech to Gaza ‘genocide’

NEW YORK (AP) — A nurse was fired by a New York City hospital after she referred to Israel’s war in Gaza as “genocide” during a speech accepting an award. Labor and delivery nurse Hesen Jabr, who is Palestinian American, was being honored by NYU Langone Health for her compassion in caring for mothers who […]

3 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Sanderson Ford

3 new rides for 3 new road trips in Arizona

It's time for the Sanderson Ford Memorial Day sale with the Mighty Fine 69 Anniversary, as Sanderson Ford turned 69 years old in May.

...

DESERT INSTITUTE FOR SPINE CARE

Desert Institute for Spine Care is the place for weekend warriors to fix their back pain

Spring has sprung and nothing is better than March in Arizona. The temperatures are perfect and with the beautiful weather, Arizona has become a hotbed for hikers, runners, golfers, pickleball players and all types of weekend warriors.

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s 1 way to ensure your family is drinking safe water

Water is maybe one of the most important resources in our lives, and especially if you have kids, you want them to have access to safe water.

Free speech, racial equity battles play out on Wisconsin campuses