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Members of Faculty Senate vote on a issue during their Jan. 9, 2017 meeting. 

Faculty Senate: Members and administrators discuss freedom of expression policy

Ohio University Faculty Senate met for a special meeting Monday night to discuss proposed policies regarding expression on campus.

Senators and faculty gave feedback to administrators on the proposed policies’ language and purpose. Faculty Senate will discuss the proposed policies further during its May 7 meeting and will then finalize recommendations for the Executive Staff Policy Committee.

“Between now and our May 7 meeting, I’m going to be working with the (Faculty Senate) executive committee and the committee chairs to try to distill what we heard this evening into a response,” Faculty Senate Chair Joe McLaughlin said. 

Faculty members criticized vague language and legal jargon. They emphasized the need for greater clarity in the policy. 

“We’ve got 18 pages, we’ve got to find a way of how to communicate that. It’s not hard to do, we just have to unwrite it,” Faculty Senate Vice Chair David Thomas said. “We’re building some things in this policy that are a little bit against human nature … we have to allow people to do what’s going to come naturally.”

Meeting attendees also spoke on the inconsistencies between the preamble, in which the university states a commitment to free speech, and the proposed indoor and outdoor policies, which restrict expression in certain campus spaces. 

“It seems at odds with some of the values expressed in the preamble as (the purpose of) universities and public spaces is for difficult debate, and the question of whether or not we want to exclude community members from this space, and not be a center for those types of conversations,” Berkeley Franz, a faculty senator, said.

Because the policy does restrict access to reservable spaces for community members to host demonstrations, some faculty felt it is exclusionary. 

“It’s really important to understand the necessity and the importance of public space, and we live in a time where public space is being diminished and taken away and privatized and we as a public institution shouldn’t go the same path,” Bernhard Debatin, a faculty senator, said. 

At the special meeting, attendees discussed the legality of the policy as well as the potential consequences for students. 

Harold Perkins, a faculty senator, said restricting space where people can talk means speech is being restricted. He commented on the lack of specifics for protecting students. 

“We have tried, from a legal perspective, to draft a policy that would be upheld by a court,” Grant Garber, OU’s associate general counsel, said. 

Faculty Senators also discussed the reactionary nature of the policy and the need for a protocol to de-escalate situations.


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