Students divide over new policy

Leaders of student organizations, such as Students for Choice, Northern Right to Life and Common Ground, have taken it upon themselves to meet with Dr. Mark Shanley, vice president of Student Affairs, to discuss their misgivings about the new free expression policy.

“In response to faculty disregard of the new free expression policy, students are speaking up in a big way,” said Alex Kindell, junior English major and editor of the Lost Cause.

The free expression policy, which was revised in December 2006 after a 17-year hiatus with no updates, is causing concern among students because of its limiting nature, according to Kindell.

“This policy is more restrictive than the old policy. It has taken away our right to chalk, protest in buildings, and worst of all, it is trying to take us away from each other,” Kindell said.

Not all student organizations view the new policy as restrictive. Josh Ruth, president of the Student Government Association, said the policy needs to be vague, so it is not overly restrictive.

“This policy is constitutional and allows students the ability to express themselves more freely than before,” Ruth said.

Although the new policy removes the restriction that demonstrations be conducted in a lawful manner conforming to state statues, it now states demonstrations may not interfere with a university event, take place within any building on campus, or alter the appearance of an area. It makes no reference to allowing those outside of the university community on campus to demonstrate, and it also states protests with more than 50 individuals may be restricted in size and to specific locations.

In addition, temporary displays are subject to approval by the Dean of Students, under the new policy. The dean’s decision will be based on campus issues such as safety, construction, university policy and procedures, and federal and state law.

“Every display can be argued against. This can hurt every organization on campus,” Kindell said. “The policy says (the administration) can stop any demonstration, any rally, any protest, at any time.”

If demonstrators use prohibited areas, such as buildings, streets or any area that blocks access to educational facilities, they will be instructed to leave the area and could be subject to removal by law enforcement, as stated in the new and old policy.

The free speech area, previously located at the northwest end of the University Center, is no longer the only area where free speech can be expressed, under the new policy. Although this may seem less restrictive, it has actually closed much of the campus to free speech, according to Kindell.

“Calling our campus a limited public forum is very contradictory. Students are no longer able to participate in free speech inside buildings, where people walk, practically everywhere students gather. The policy is trying to protect students from each other, when the university should be a breeding ground for discussion; it is like being babysat,” Kindell said.

In addition, temporary displays must be approved by the Dean of Students, under the new policy. The dean’s decision is based on campus issues such as safety, construction, university policy0 and federal and state law.

“It is ironic that the new policy is supposed to be about free expression, but administration never thought to ask students what they thought of it,” Kindell said. She said it can be interpreted in too many ways, usually to the detriment of students.

Kindell is circulating a petition to suspend the free expression policy as a voting item at the March Board of Regents meeting.

To access the free expression policy, go to