Deadline dispute concering free expression policy

Lately, it seems as though much of the campus’ focus has been on the free expression policy. However, it now appears that a miscommunication was taken place between the deadline presented to the Student Government Association.

Mark Shanley, vice president of Student Affairs sent out a memo to SGA, the Faculty Senate and Staff Congress. The memorandum stated that “by the Board of Regents guidelines, proposed Presidential Recommendations are submitted thirty (30) days in advance of the Board meeting.” This meant the proposal needed had to be no later than February 21.

This left a lot of people rushing to get the policy in, according to Alex Kindell, editor of the Lost Cause. “All staff and faculty, everyone basically, especially those of us who were extremely concerned about this policy were really rushing to get all of our recommendations and all of our problems with the policy,” she said.

“We were really, really rushing to try to get all of that in before this deadline, before the February 21 date that he set,” Kindell said.

Kindell suspected that the 30-day deadline might not exist when she was exchanging e-mails with Kim Luse, executive assistant to the president. “I was very surprised when she told me that she had never even heard of this 30-day guideline,” Kindell said.

After Luse read the memorandum, she stated that the guideline was true. “I think the disconnect came when, at least what I think has happened, when I talked to Alex, is she interpreted this as the Board of Regents bylaws,” said Luse. She said that the 30 days is not a bylaw, but a guideline set up by the board and the chair of the board.

“I think she thought that she had found an error but he’s not saying this is the Board of Regents’ bylaws, he’s saying guidelines,” Luse said. However Kindell said she was not told of this when she was trying to get clarification on the guideline.

To find out about the rule, Kindell spoke with Dean of Students Kent Kelso. “I actually went into his office the next day and he basically looked at it and then said well there you go,” Kindell said. “There was really no other explanation given other than maybe through all the years the president had wanted to have everything ready 30 days in advance and somehow it got translated to be procedure.” Still, Luse said that the 30-day guideline had been in effect the three years she has worked there.

Luse said the 30-day guideline was implemented due to the time it took to get the packet together and sent to the board members. She said they needed the time to review the policy in order to make informed decisions about it. “We have to be able to let them have time to digest material, so that they feel they can come to the meeting prepared to vote in an informed way,” Luse said.

Both Luse and Kindell believe this to be an honest misunderstanding between the involved parties.

“I’m sure it was an honest mistake that, somehow, just got translated down. Because I really do believe that they wanted the whole university community to have enough time,” Kindell said. Luse agreed.

“I’ve never seen this letter. I can imagine if I read this quickly I might think, ‘oh they’re saying the Board of Regents bylaws,’ and if you go and get it and you don’t see it; but he was just expressing it, the board of regents guidelines. That is true. That’s correct. That’s what I think happened,” Luse said.

Kindell was a little discouraged that the SGA didn’t question the 30-day guidelines themselves. “I think it’s disappointing that the SGA, especially, didn’t question what was handed to them. Although I’m glad that students were able to find this out,” Kindell said. “I think that this is something that especially our student government should have questioned. It’s their job to translate policy from the administration down to the students; they have that obligation to them.”

Luse hopes that people can step away from this and really look at the free speech policy.

“My hope is that once this is all finished folks will be able to come together in consensus and support this because the free speech policy actually is opening the campus up wider than the policy that we have in place right now,” Luse said. “It’s going to allow students more freedom; and not just students, other groups as well. It’s going to allow people more freedom to come together and exercise their freedom of speech. I think that over all when we look back on this it’s going to be something that we’re all proud of.”