Pro-liberty posters put up by a student group at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee prior to a speech by Hillary Clinton last week were taken down, allegedly on orders from the Secret Service.
Several members of the Young Americans for Liberty student group at UWM told Campus Reform that they hung the signs, most of them featuring the slogan “Big Government Sucks,” in the window of an office shared by the YAL and College Republicans groups that would have been visible directly behind Clinton during her speech.
Most of the signs were printed on 8.5” x 11” sheets of paper, and all were dwarfed by two large “UWM” signs that the students say were put up by the university in advance of Clinton’s speech.
YAL members Devin Gatton and Morgan Paradis recounted that they finished hanging the signs at about 12:30 p.m. Thursday, at which point they left the office, locking the door behind them.
Shortly before 1, however, they noticed that the signs had been removed from the window during their absence, presumably by an individual with access to a key to the office. There was no time to replace the signs before the office had to be vacated, and the area remained under lockdown until 7 — two hours after Clinton’s speech was scheduled to begin.
Pictures posted on Facebook depict the posters being placed in the windows Thursday afternoon, while another photo posted roughly 30 minutes later shows the same windows devoid of all signs except the large UWM signs put up by the university.
The university’s policy manual for student organizations makes clear that student groups are allowed to hang signs in their designated office spaces without prior approval, but UWM claims that security considerations overrode those policies in this case.
The policy on freedom of expression for student organizations states that “these regulations do not restrain the views that students or others may seek to present,” and a related statement asserts that UWM only regulates the time, place, and manner of student political activity “in order to prevent interference with the University’s operations.”
Tom Luljak, Vice Chancellor of University Relations and Communications at UWM, told Campus Reform that he had not been made aware of the specific circumstances in question, but said the removal of the signs would have been in accordance with instructions the school had received several days earlier from the Secret Service, which he indicated took precedence over school policies.
“The Secret Service requested that we remove all signage from the windows except for the UWM signs,” Luljak explained, adding that the school was not involved in the decision. “When the Secret Service says they want something done for security purposes, we pretty much accept that.”
The Secret Service was unable to confirm whether those instructions had been issued, telling Campus Reform that its staff was otherwise occupied with preparations related to the pope’s visit to the U.S.
On Friday, though, Paradis visited UWM’s office of Student Involvement in an effort to find out who was responsible for removing the signs, documenting her conversation with a female employee in a video recording provided to Campus Reform.
After Paradis mentions the fact that posters had been removed from the group’s office windows, the employee volunteers that the reason must have been related to Clinton’s speech, saying, “I know they pulled a bunch of stuff down off the bat because of the Hillary appearance.”
“They were up for about a half hour, I think,” Paradis replied. “So, it was Student Involvement that took them down?”
“No, we didn’t take any of them down, but I know that they were taking a lot, because I know that they took some of ours down, too—off of the windows down on the first floor.”
“It wasn’t the Hillary people, though, because they started at 1, right?”
The employee verified that assumption, saying, “Yeah, they would have been taken down before 1, because ours got taken down before 1.”
At press time, Paradis told Campus Reform that UWM officials had not yet been able to determine who was responsible for removing the posters, which were supposed to have been returned on Friday.