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Protesters hold banners during the open forum on the interim 'Freedom of Expression' policy in Baker Ballroom on March 21. (FILE)

Freedom of Expression policy advisory group finalizes recommendations

After an open forum last week, the Campus Free Speech Policy Advisory Group met to revise its considerations discussing and voting on each item. 

The advisory group is finalizing a list of 26 recommendations about Ohio University’s interim “Freedom of Expression” policy after an open forum about the policy. To send the recommendations to the Executive Staff Policy Committee, the advisory group is compiling a report to send to OU President Duane Nellis and interim Executive Vice President and Provost Elizabeth Sayrs. The advisory group will not yet disclose any of its specific recommendations.

“We heard a lot of diverse voices last night (at the forum), and … many of the statements we heard last night were very resounding of things we read in public comments that were originally submitted to the interim policy,” Scripps College of Communication Dean Scott Titsworth said in a conference call March 22. “What was so important (about the forum) was that we were really able to hear the emotion behind those words.”

During the open forum March 21, faculty and students said the advisory group did not do enough research or consult widely enough on the topic.

“When I was listening to introductory remarks about all the resources used, what I did not hear was that you referred to any type of case law,” Eddith Dashiell, an associate professor of journalism, said.

The group read and discussed Free Speech on Campus by Erwin Chemerinsky and Howard Gillman during its time reviewing the policy.

“I’m sure that the Executive Staff Policy Committee, if there are court cases that somehow were not covered in that book that are pertinent to the situation at Ohio University, of course they would want to hear about that,” Titsworth said. 

At Thursday’s meeting, the group voted on the original 28 considerations. Its report will include dissenting opinions on items about which members disagreed. 

“We went through each of those to talk about them with relation to things we heard last night, but also the public comments we synthesized and to have additional deliberation,” Titsworth said. 

Titsworth said some of the considerations were merged together in compiling the final document, and the group ended up with 26 recommendations.

In written comments and at the open forum, people have said the policy has a chilling effect on free speech. 

“I think there is something bigger that when we begin to not only restrict the level of free speech, we have to think of also the need of fearless speech, and that is key … (for me) as being a marginalized person, an underrepresented body within this university,” Jay Hooper, a doctoral student studying interdisciplinary arts, said. 

The advisory group discussed whether the university should allow protests and similar expression inside Baker Center and Cutler Hall.

“(The considerations about Baker Center and Cutler Hall) were certainly ones that we debated upon tonight and took votes on, but I'm not going to comment on any of the specific recommendations until we have the chance to do final edits on the report and present that to the president and provost,” Titsworth said. 

Some people at the open forum said the policy is unconstitutional. Titsworth said the constitutionality of the policy is outside of the group’s scope. 

“I know our motivation was to do what’s best for all of us because we’re all a member of this community,” Titsworth. “Those motivations and attributions that were commented on last night were not something that I feel like was a part of our group.”


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