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2017 - 2018 LEGISLATURE
September 6, 2017 - Printed by direction of Senate Chief Clerk.
AB299-engrossed,1,4 1An Act to amend 36.35 (1); and to create 36.02 and 227.01 (13) (Lo) of the
2statutes; relating to: free expression within the University of Wisconsin
3System, providing an exemption from rule-making procedures, and granting
4rule-making authority.
Analysis by the Legislative Reference Bureau
Engrossment information:
The text of Engrossed 2017 Assembly Bill 299 consists of the following
documents adopted in the assembly on June 21, 2017: the bill as affected by
Assembly Amendment 2. The text also includes the May 22, 2017, chief clerk's
correction to Assembly Bill 299.
Contents of Engrossed 2017 Assembly Bill 299:
This bill requires the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System
to adopt a policy on free expression that applies at the four-year and two-year
institutions of the system and supersedes and nullifies any prior Board of Regents
or institution policies or rules restricting free expression. The bill allows the Board
of Regents to adopt the policy without promulgating rules and requires the policy to
be adopted no later than 120 days after the bill's effective date. The policy must
contain statements regarding the following: 1) that the primary function of an
institution is the discovery, improvement, transmission, and dissemination of
knowledge; 2) that it is not the proper role of an institution to shield individuals from
speech protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution; 3) that students

and faculty have the freedom to discuss any problem as permitted by the First
Amendment and within specified limits; 4) that any person lawfully present on
campus may protest or demonstrate, but that protests and demonstrations that
interfere with the expressive rights of others are subject to sanction; 5) that
campuses are open to invited speakers; 6) that public areas are public forums and
open on the same terms to any speaker; and 7) that institutions must remain neutral
on public policy controversies.
The policy must include a range of disciplinary sanctions for anyone under an
institution's jurisdiction who engages in violent or other disorderly conduct that
materially and substantially disrupts the free expression of others. In addition, the
policy must provide that in disciplinary cases involving expressive conduct, students
are entitled to a disciplinary hearing under published procedures that include
specified rights. Also, the policy must require all of the following: 1) a formal
investigation and disciplinary hearing the second time a student is alleged to have
interfered with the expressive rights of others; 2) a minimum one-semester
suspension of a student who is twice found responsible for such interference; and 3)
the expulsion of a student who is thrice found responsible for such interference. In
addition, the policy must allow persons to report violations of the policy or the bill's
requirements and must require a formal investigation and disciplinary hearing if
two or more reports are made regarding the same person's violation.
The bill also provides that institutions may restrict student expression only for
expressive activity that is not protected by the First Amendment, including state or
federal law violations, defamation, specified types of harassment and threats,
certain invasions of privacy or confidentiality, and violations of reasonable time,
place, or manner restrictions on expressive activities.
The bill also does the following:
1. Allows a person whose expressive rights are violated by a violation of the
bill's requirements to bring an action to enjoin a violation and allows a defendant to
recover attorney fees for a frivolous or bad faith action.
2. Sets forth legislative findings regarding free expression at the institutions
of the UW System.
3. Requires the Board of Regents to inform students when the Board of Regents
adopts the policy required by the bill.
4. Requires institutions to describe free expression policies and rules in
freshman orientation programs and provide training to employees on those policies
and rules.
5. Requires the Board of Regents to make annual reports to the governor and
legislature regarding free expression within institutions. The report must include
specified information about disciplinary hearings and other matters.
The people of the state of Wisconsin, represented in senate and assembly, do
enact as follows:
AB299-engrossed,1 1Section 1. 36.02 of the statutes is created to read:
AB299-engrossed,3,2
136.02 Campus Free Speech Act. (1) Legislative findings. The legislature
2finds all of the following:
AB299-engrossed,3,43 (a) Article I, section 3, of the Wisconsin Constitution recognizes the right to
4speak freely and prohibits laws abridging the liberty of speech.
AB299-engrossed,3,65 (b) The system has historically embraced a commitment to freedom of
6expression in policy.
AB299-engrossed,3,97 (c) In recent years, institutions have abdicated their responsibility to uphold
8free speech principles and these failures make it appropriate for the system to restate
9and confirm its commitment in this regard.
AB299-engrossed,3,1810 (d) In 1974, the Committee on Free Expression at Yale issued a statement
11known as the Woodward Report that stands as a classic defense of free expression
12on campuses; in 2015, the Committee on Freedom of Expression at the University
13of Chicago issued a similar and widely respected report; and in 1967, the Kalven
14Committee Report of the University of Chicago articulated the principle of
15institutional neutrality regarding political and social issues and the essential role of
16such neutrality in protecting freedom of thought and expression at universities. The
17principles affirmed by these 3 highly regarded reports are inspiring articulations of
18the critical importance of free expression in higher education.
AB299-engrossed,3,2119 (e) The legislature views freedom of expression as being of critical importance
20and requires that each institution ensure free, robust, and uninhibited debate and
21deliberation by students whether on or off campus.
AB299-engrossed,3,2322 (f) The legislature has determined that it is a matter of statewide concern that
23all institutions officially recognize freedom of speech as a fundamental right.
AB299-engrossed,3,24 24(2) Short title. This section shall be known as the “Campus Free Speech Act.”
AB299-engrossed,3,25 25(3) Definitions. In this section:
AB299-engrossed,4,1
1(a) “Institution” means a college campus or university.
AB299-engrossed,4,82 (b) “Peer-on-peer harassment” means conduct directed by one student
3towards another individual student, on the basis of that other student's race, color,
4creed, religion, political views, sex, national origin, disability, ancestry, age, sexual
5orientation, gender identity, pregnancy, marital status, parental status, or military
6status, that is so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively
7deprives the victim of access to the educational opportunities or benefits provided by
8an institution.
AB299-engrossed,4,139 (c) “Quid pro quo sexual harassment” means explicitly or implicitly
10conditioning a student's participation in an education program or activity or basing
11an educational decision on the student's submission to unwelcome sexual advances,
12requests for sexual favors, or other verbal, nonverbal, or physical conduct of a sexual
13nature.
AB299-engrossed,4,1914 (d) “True threat” means a statement that a speaker would reasonably foresee
15that a listener would reasonably interpret as a serious expression of a purpose to
16inflict harm, as distinguished from hyperbole, jest, innocuous talk, expressions of
17political views, or other speech that is similarly protected under the First
18Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, regardless of whether the speaker has the
19ability to carry out the threat.
AB299-engrossed,4,23 20(4) Free expression policy. (a) Statements. No later than 120 days after the
21effective date of this paragraph .... [LRB inserts date], the Board of Regents shall
22develop and adopt a policy on free expression that contains statements of at least all
23the following:
AB299-engrossed,5,324 1. That the primary function of an institution is the discovery, improvement,
25transmission, and dissemination of knowledge by means of research, teaching,

1discussion, and debate. This statement shall provide that, to fulfill this function, an
2institution must strive to ensure the fullest degree of intellectual freedom and free
3expression.
AB299-engrossed,5,64 2. That it is not the proper role of an institution to shield individuals from
5speech protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, including ideas
6and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive.
AB299-engrossed,5,167 3. That students and faculty have the freedom to discuss any problem that
8presents itself, as the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution permits and within
9the limits of reasonable viewpoint-neutral and content-neutral restrictions on time,
10place, and manner of expression that are consistent with this section and that are
11necessary to achieve a significant institutional interest, provided that these
12restrictions are clear, published, and provide ample alternative means of expression.
13Students and faculty shall be permitted to assemble and engage in spontaneous
14expressive activity as long as such activity is not unlawful and does not materially
15and substantially disrupt the functioning of an institution, subject to the
16requirements of this section.
AB299-engrossed,5,2117 4. That any person lawfully present on campus may protest or demonstrate
18there. This statement shall make clear that protests and demonstrations that
19interfere with the rights of others to engage in or listen to expressive activity shall
20not be permitted and shall be subject to sanction. This statement shall not prohibit
21professors or other instructors from maintaining order in the classroom.
AB299-engrossed,5,2322 5. That the campuses of the institution are open to any speaker whom students,
23student groups, or members of the faculty have invited.
AB299-engrossed,5,2524 6. That the public areas of institutions are public forums and open on the same
25terms to any speaker.
AB299-engrossed,6,4
17. That each institution shall strive to remain neutral, as an institution, on the
2public policy controversies of the day, and may not take action, as an institution, on
3the public policy controversies of the day in such a way as to require students or
4faculty to publicly express a given view of social policy.
AB299-engrossed,6,65 (b) Discipline. The policy required under par. (a) shall satisfy all of the
6following:
AB299-engrossed,6,97 1. Include a range of disciplinary sanctions for anyone under the jurisdiction
8of the institution who engages in violent or other disorderly conduct that materially
9and substantially disrupts the free expression of others.
AB299-engrossed,6,1210 2. Provide that in all disciplinary cases involving expressive conduct, students
11are entitled to a disciplinary hearing under published procedures, including, at least
12all of the following:
AB299-engrossed,6,1313 a. The right to receive advanced written notice of the charges.
AB299-engrossed,6,1414 b. The right to review the evidence in support of the charges.
AB299-engrossed,6,1515 c. The right to confront witnesses against them.
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