In response to continued criticism from various student groups, the dean of students amended the proposed Free Expression Policy.
Dean of Students Kent Kelso submitted the changes to the Faculty Senate March 26. He said these changes were made in response to the March 21 open public forum held in the University Center ballroom, which included about 60 students and faculty members.
During the meeting, students both for and against the proposed free expression policy met with administrators to discuss chalking, demonstrations and other free speech avenues on campus.
The changes included permitting the practice of chalking on campus walkways. It also specified that demonstrations or protests may be conducted “on campus” versus being restricted to “outdoor areas” of the campus. A third change established a “reasonable person” standard for policy interpretation.
Another change states that approval for any rally, protest or demonstration will not be given if it blocks an entrance or is within 30 feet of an exit of an educational facility used by students, faculty and staff.
The new proposed policy will also include an annual policy review, which Kelso said would be comprised of faculty, staff and students. The group would consider the need for policy clarifications in the context of the educational mission of the university.
He also noted that the changes do not have any reference to outside persons wanting to protest because the policy is “meant for our community.”
At the end of the meeting, the Faculty Senate voted to endorse the new policy, claiming it only had minor changes to the document.
However, Kelso said “no changes become permanent until the board votes on it May 2.”
Kent Kelso said at the forum that the policy “will never be able to define free expression perfectly. It comes to terms of a reasonable person standard on what defines a protest or a demonstration. No situation is the same. It comes down to a judgment call.”