Venue Shopping in Multiple Streams: Campus Free Speech Policy Adoption in Wisconsin

Published date01 May 2023
AuthorBrian Stelbotsky,Luke Fowler
Date01 May 2023
Subject MatterArticles
Administration & Society
2023, Vol. 55(5) 779 –801
© The Author(s) 2023
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/00953997231157743
Venue Shopping in
Multiple Streams:
Campus Free Speech
Policy Adoption in
Brian Stelbotsky1 and Luke Fowler1
Wisconsin’s Campus Free Speech Act provides a distinctive case study
to examine the intersection of venue shopping and the multiple streams
framework. After some initial traction, entrepreneur ran into roadblocks
in the state legislature; then, shifted their attention to the University of
Wisconsin Board of Regents, where they were able to take advantage of
an open policy window. When these events are considered holistically,
they illustrate how manipulating institutional structures and fragmented
authorities can help entrepreneurs achieve their goals.
venue shopping, multiple streams framework, campus free speech
Fragmentation of authority in the U.S., as well as other decentralized gov-
ernmental systems, makes venue shopping particularly pervasive as there
are numerous political and administrative bodies with overlapping author-
ities to choose from. Specifically, venue shopping is a phenomenon where
entrepreneurs seek out policymaking bodies sympathetic to their causes,
or at least susceptible to their manipulation, so that they can increase their
1Boise State University, ID, USA
Corresponding Author:
Luke Fowler, Boise State University, 1910 University Drive – MS 1935, Boise, ID 83725, USA.
1157743AAS0010.1177/00953997231157743Administration & SocietyStelbotsky and Fowler
780 Administration & Society 55(5)
chances of success. This is in contrast to a more conventional view of gov-
ernment where centralized legislative bodies or executive authorities enjoy
policy monopolies, making them “the only game in town.” Of course, the
era of networked governance, polycentric institutions, and self-organized
policy systems has increased the possibility that one can find an open pol-
icy window if she only looks hard enough. While the multiple streams
framework (MSF) provides theoretical tools to understand why decisions
occur as they do within specific venues (i.e., stream coupling), it does not
yet explain how actors choose which venue to pursue their goals or what
happens when actors are operating across distinct venues in pursuit of the
same policy goals.
Wisconsin’s Campus Free Speech Act provides a unique case study to
examine these issues. Conflicts over freedom of expression and protest on
university campuses have proliferated in recent years, moving from concerns
within particular higher education institutions or systems onto the legislative
agenda at the state and federal levels (see, e.g., Federal Register, 2020; Shaw
v. Burke, 2019). While legislation concerning free speech issues on university
campuses has been considered in some 40 states (AAUP, 2018; NCSL, 2021),
Wisconsin stands out. Between 2017 and 2019, the Wisconsin State Assembly
twice introduced and successfully passed the Campus Free Speech Act, but
twice it failed to make it through the State Senate (NCSL, 2021). Subsequent
to the passage of the legislation in 2017, a policy nearly identical to the leg-
islation passed by the State Assembly reached the agenda of the University of
Wisconsin (UW) Board of Regents, the governing body for the UW System
(Board of Regents, 2021). After brief consideration, The UW Board of
Regents adopted the policy as Resolution 10952 in October of 2017 (Board
of Regents, 2017b), effectively implementing the Campus Free Speech Act
without legislative action, a situation distinctive among states that have con-
sidered such measures (AAUP, 2018).
This presents a rather novel case study that illustrates an argument await-
ing systematic empirical examination in as far as it is a clear example of a
policy moving from a legislative body to an administrative one after hitting a
roadblock. Of course, that systematic empirical examination is difficult when
few explicit examples of this type of venue shopping occur. While similar
policies have advanced through both legislative and administrative bodies in
other states, there are no other specific cases in which the same policy has
shifted from one venue to the other and subsequently been adopted, adding
further intrigue to the circumstances by which policy entrepreneurs pursue
their goals. Considered through the lens of MSF, this certainly leaves one
wondering how a policy window that closed for the State Senate opened for
the Board of Regents. The novelty of this case provides a unique opportunity

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