After rain had washed away chalk messages supporting free speech and opposing the free expression policy for Northern Kentucky University, student protestors lined outside the University Center to once again make their voices heard.
The coalition of students, comprising approximately 20 organizations, met before the 1 p.m. Board of Regents meeting March 14, when the board was set to vote on whether to pass the first revised free expression policy for NKU in 17 years.
The board tabled the policy until the next Board of Regents meeting scheduled for May. Student protestors observing the meeting reacted with an immediate, “Yes!”
“I am very happy,” said College Republican President Eric Cranley. “We had great support from all the student groups and we showed the Regents we care.”
Cranley said that was the primary thing students asked for: To postpone the vote to have campus-wide discussion about the policy.
During the meeting, Cranley, who represented the student protestors, suggested the board postpone the vote until more information could be gathered for more discussion and for possible revisions.
The students were concerned with the elimination of chalking on campus, indoor restrictions for rallies, demonstrations and protests, and protestor limits in regard to outside participation, Cranley said.
“We might wake up one day to find our beloved university has become an environment that stifles individual rights and expression,” he said. “All of these students gathered here today love this university too much to stand back and let this happen.”
Student Government Association President Josh Ruth said the new policy would give students rights at the university.
“With this policy instated, you have the right to go to class and not be intimidated or harassed or distracted,” he said. “Our main intent here is to be educated and this gives us the right to do that without any interruptions.”
He also said the new policy is less restrictive than the current one and would open up new avenues for areas of expression.
Board of Regents Parliamentarian Steven Weiss said he was worried students’ voices may not have been would open up new avenues for areas of expression.
Board of Regents Parliamentarian Steven Weiss said he was worried students’ voices may not have been heard when the policy was passed at lower levels.
“If Student Government, the Faculty Senate and Staff Congress have voted on the policy, I don’t know if that really addresses the needs of student organizations and student groups who have concerns about free speech,” Weiss said.
NKU President James Votruba heard all sides before the board decided to table the policy.
“It’s very challenging to write a policy that protects our core mission, and the rights of faculty, staff and students and maximizes free speech,” Votruba said. “Our board was really impressed with the students today.”
But the students didn’t begin their protest during the meeting. The coalition of students met March 11, before spring break ended, for a late-night chalking so others could see their view of the policy the next day.
Participants from Students for Choice, Northern Right to Life, Common Ground, Northern Family Values and others, who, under other circumstances, said they wouldn’t be associated with one another gathered until about 1 a.m. chalking messages of free speech and open opposition of the free expression policy on sidewalks and plazas throughout campus.
All of the students signed their names and organizations under the flags on the plaza near the library.
“It’s great that students who express different points of view are willing to come together for this,” said Lost Cause Review Editor Alex Kindell. Though usually responsible for leading protests and forming petitions, Kindell said it was “actually thrilling” to be just a participant in the chalking and protest.
“I’ve held quite a few signs in my time,” she said. “Once you get any group together, you see the people, not just the causes. It’s not that we were all ever mad at each other or throwing insults, we just never knew one another.”
Dean of Students Kent Kelso, who is responsible for approving or denying student demonstrations, said he told the groups to “have a good time” when they informed him of the protest.
“I thought it was absolutely fantastic,” he said. “I was actually impressed that students signed names and organizations. It’s a strong statement that they are willing to stand behind what they believe.”
Editor’s Note: Brianna Bodine contributed to this article