After the public comment period ended on Oct. 20, President Duane Nellis announced the creation of an 11-member advisory group to help decide the future of the university’s contentious interim “Freedom of Expression” policy.
Comments and reports from members critiquing the policies are available online, with the exception of Baker Center Executive Director Dusty Kilgour, legal affairs representative Grant Garber, Department of History Chairwoman Katherine Jellison and Senior Director of Communications Carly Leatherwood.
Here’s what the rest of the members said in reports to General Counsel John Biancamano:
Scripps College of Communication Dean Scott Titsworth
Titsworth advocated for revisions to the policy, including removing the section banning various forms of demonstration and assembly inside university buildings.
Eliminating the section, Titsworth wrote, would avoid placing an unnecessary focus on acts of free speech.
“My belief is that the policy should allow any mode of expression and should place restrictions only on acts that violate principles behind the balance of free speech and public good,” Titsworth wrote.
Senate attached a proposed revision of the policy that reworks the provision on demonstrations and assemblies indoors.
“The primary concerns expressed by students focus on vagueness and ambiguities found in the interim policy,” the report said. “Students question the difference between a material and substantial disruption ... most notably, what potential consequences for violation of this policy entail.”
The report noted that OU should go to “the greatest possible lengths” to avoid involving police.
Graduate Student Senate
GSS referenced a recent survey, and said that while several favored the policy, most responses were critical.
The most popular criticism “by far” was that the university may use the policy to restrict ideas it disagrees with.
“The idea that protests and public engagement through sit-ins, rallies, marches, etc. are by its nature meant to be spontaneous and should not need prior approval was brought up frequently,” the report said.
At an Oct. 16 meeting, Faculty Senate passed a resolution asking that the university rescind the policy and create a group to discuss the necessity of, and potential changes to the policy.
In a report, the senate attached a resolution stating the interim policies “seriously curtail protected speech” and turn indoor and outdoor venues into “quasi-private spaces,” although OU should be open to the public whenever possible.
A statement by Administrative Senate called for the policy to be rescinded, saying it will likely silence “thoughtful and rational students” rather than preventing neo-Nazi and fascist gatherings, which are “likely to be violent.”
“If the University deems it necessary to implement a new policy regarding freedom of expression on campus, a new dialogue should be opened … that provides a clearer explanation why such a policy is needed,” the senators wrote.
The Classified Senate report did not include an official statement, but featured comments from staff and Senate members, many of whom voiced concern.
One reviewer called the policy a “knee-jerk reaction” to the "Baker 70" arrests, while others criticized the section banning demonstrations in university buildings.
“This is severely limiting peaceful movements and free speech,” another reviewer wrote. “We teach students about the peaceful sit-ins of the 1960s, and tell them that this is a good thing, then we tell them they can’t do it.”
OUPD Chief Andrew Powers
Powers advocated for the permanent implementation of the policy, writing that it does an “excellent job” balancing freedom of expression with student safety.
“Since the Constitution only protects expression up to the point of disruption, such a policy would exceed Constitutional requirements, infringe on the rights of those who are disrupted, and conflict with criminal laws prohibiting disruptive conduct,” Powers wrote.