EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: UW official tells conservative student with 'free speech ball' to move or face the cops

A  University of Wisconsin-River Falls campus official told a freshman student that police would be notified if she refused to get a permit before rolling a “free speech ball” around a grassy area of the public campus. 

Sophie Salmon is a freshman at UW-River Falls who is trying to start a Turning Point USA chapter at her new school. As part of her recruitment efforts, Salmon inflated a six-foot “free speech ball” on Thursday. The ball was designed to serve as a platform for students to write whatever they pleased, but it also attracted the attention of university administrators.

After less than half an hour of rolling the ball around campus lawns, Salmon was confronted by UW-River Falls Conference and Contract Services Manager Kristin Barstad outside River Falls’ main building, University Center. The official informed the student that she lacked the proper permissions needed to exercise her free speech on public university property and needed to take the ball elsewhere.

Barstad said that if the student declined to leave the areas, then campus police would be summoned “based on the university policy that you’re violating,” although Barstad said “I’m not going to know that [policy] off the top of my head” but added that Director of University Center and Dining Services Cara Rubis “is going to have those policies.” 

Neither Barstad nor Rubis responded to Campus Reform when asked which policy Salmon was allegedly violating. 

The incident comes just one month after Campus Reform reported that Wisconsin state lawmakers introduced a bill that, according to a news release, would “direct the UW Board of Regents to implement a policy on free expression which states...that any person lawfully on campus may protest or demonstrate, but actions that interfere with the expressive rights of others are subject to sanction.” 

[RELATED: EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Conservatives told to ‘pack up and head on out’ on public college campus]


“I’ve only been here for five days, I haven’t even been to all my classes yet,” Salmon explained to Campus Reform as she recounted the story of the encounter. However, despite this experience during her first week of college, she expressed a desire to continue with her activism and start a Turning Point USA chapter.

“I feel emboldened because I think there are a lot of people here who are interested [in conservatism]. I think it’s mostly the staff here who are not as open,” she said. “I think the students here are pretty open.”

Rebekah Beeton, a regional field coordinator for the Leadership Institute, Campus Reform’s parent organization, was also present to assist Salmon with the free speech ball. 

“We had a lot of students coming up and signing it, even students who didn’t agree with Turning Point’s stance on political issues,” Beeton told Campus Reform.“We had a free speech ball there outside of the student center and a university faculty member came out and was telling us about the policies of needing a permit…and so we took out our phones and recorded it. It all happened pretty fast.”

[RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Students say administrators shut down free speech petition table]

“I asked someone else at the university if they had a written policy and she said no,” Beeton added. 

Campus Reform also reached out to Asha Moline, who led the River Falls Liberty Society chapter before graduating last spring. 

“Can’t kids just roll a ball around campus?” Moline said. “It’s pretty absurd that they can’t. I would say that’s definitely something that needs to change on campuses.”

UW-River Falls did not respond to Campus Reform when asked which policy, specifically, the student allegedly violated.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @KyleHooten2