Ohio University’s “Freedom of Expression” policy continued to draw harsh criticism at Wednesday’s Student Senate meeting.
At the previous meeting on Sept. 20, Student Senate members discussed the policy. Some defended the policy, but most were critical. They worried that the policy was too broad, that it did not describe who was authorized to enforce it and that it limited freedom of speech.
Eleven students spoke out Wednesday night. All were critical of the interim policy.
OU College Democrats President Ashley Fishwick and OU College Republicans President Ryan Evans gave a joint statement condemning the interim policy.
Evans said the interim policy “usurps both the state constitution and the supreme law of the land.”
Students criticized the part of the policy prohibiting “demonstrations, rallies, public speech-making, picketing, sit-ins, marches, protests, and similar assemblies” from inside university buildings outside of reserved rooms and spaces. They said that sentence limited a large range of indoor activities.
“If I’m sitting in a group of six people vilifying John Biancamano, am I giving a public speech?” David Boesche, a senior studying philosophy and communication, said.
Several students also criticized the policy on the grounds that it restricted free speech rights. Nathan Brown, a senior studying entrepreneurship, said many people have died for citizen’s rights for free speech.
“Dictators restrict rights, and not people for democracy and freedom,” he said.
One student senate member "rose to the defense" of the university for one aspect of the policy. Governmental Affairs Vice-Commissioner for State and Federal Affairs Nathan Horton said he liked that the policy prevented disruption of classes.
"As the policy stands for protests inside classroom buildings, I am a fan," he said.
The meeting began with a presentation from Athens Mayor Steve Patterson, who came to introduce himself and discuss communication and community engagement.
Patterson said he had an “open door policy” as a psychology professor at OU. He said he has the same policy as mayor.
“I really upset the apple cart when I became mayor,” he said. “They were like, ‘Well, aren’t you going to close your door?’ I was like, “No!’ ”
He still views himself as an educator, and the City of Athens has several internships, he said. He also encouraged people to bring their ideas and proposals to the city.
“As long as you don’t burn my city down, I’m willing to try just about everything,” he said.
The senate made wording changes to some rules and procedures. It passed resolutions to purchase more Bobcat pledge pins, a domain for its website and tables at the Blackburn Spencer Scholarship Pageant and the International Student Dinner.
It passed four resolutions appointing members or commissioners to commissions.
Cade Plotts was appointed as West Green senator. Kent Ring was appointed to the International Affairs Commission. Carolyn Miller was appointed to the Minority Affairs Commission. Alicia Lundy-Morse, Nicole Kromalic, Samantha Miller, Zach Reizes and Zach Weeks were appointed to serve as the Leadership Development Committee.