Liberals mock UW free speech center as 'GOP safe space'
A Republican-backed proposal to establish a center for freedom of speech at University of Wisconsin, Madison is being mocked by liberals as a “GOP safe space.”
Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos introduced his proposal for the creation of a Tommy G. Thompson Center on Public Leadership during a Tuesday press conference attended by Republican Governor Scott Walker, saying his goal for the center is to “ensure we have diversity of thought” on college campuses.
"Having a center on campus that is dedicated to maximizing free speech should not be controversial.”
“Far too often, we feel like there’s only one legitimate viewpoint on campus. This is just going to ensure we have diversity of thought,” Vos explained, according to the Associated Press.
He also preemptively dismissed concerns that the center will become “a conservative think tank,” though he did express hope that it might “offset some of the liberal thinking” on the infamously left-leaning campus.
Vos elaborated that the proposed center—which is named after a former Republican governor of the state—would have no agenda other than to promote “maximum free speech,” which was nonetheless enough to prompt fears among some Wisconsin Democrats that it would serve to undermine their policy agenda.
According to The Wisconsin State Journal, Democratic Rep. Gordon Hintz quickly identified that risk, attesting that Gov. Thompson had relied on input on legislation from the school’s existing La Follette School of Public Affairs and that the new center would undermine the political messaging currently being pushed from university campuses.
“If you don’t like the science and you don’t like the data and you don’t like the truth, you have to create an academic institution that meets their version of the truth,” Hintz stated. “It’s directly aimed at combating what’s coming out of our universities right now.”
One Wisconsin Now, a liberal interest group, blasted the proposed center in a tweet as the “Institute for GOP Safe Spaces,” while the organization’s executive director called it an attempt at “bullying students, faculty, and administrators” through the dissemination of “Republican propaganda” on campus.
“There is no doubt [that] right-wing foundations, corporations, and millionaire Republicans will finance what taxpayers don’t’ get stuck paying,” Scot Ross told the AP, referencing the $3 million in state funds that have been requested to kick start the project.
The center still requires approval from the state’s Republican-controlled legislature, leaving some students concerned that criticism could yet torpedo the proposal.
"Having a center on campus that is dedicated to maximizing free speech should not be controversial,” Cahleel Copus, campus coordinator for the UW Students for Liberty chapter, told Campus Reform. “Time and time again, we have seen coercive tactics used by the predatory left, including rioting and physical blockades, which to me shows that many students are not interested in engaging in opposing ideas.”
“[The university] and the state legislature are taking great steps towards counteracting this culture by creating avenues for free expression (like the Tommy Thompson Center) as well as proposing a bill that would mandate each school discuss with incoming students the value of free exchange,” he added. “This center gives myself, along with many of the other right-of-center students, hope that Wisconsin is recognizing the importance of the First Amendment, especially on college campuses."
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