In September, students and faculty began asking questions about Ohio University’s interim “Freedom of Expression” policy. As the academic year comes to a close, we now have yet another policy — but everyone still has questions.
The new proposed policies have brought with them even blurrier lines and continued confusion about freedom of expression at OU. The policies are partnered with a preamble that reaffirms OU’s commitment to speech.
But then coupled with that are two separate documents that demonstrate the opposite. The language for the new policies remains vague and not digestible for the average person. There are portions, such as what is considered disruption, that are still unclear.
And after following this ordeal for a year and the university developing new policies for a year, what we were presented has let us down. It’s disappointing that it has taken this long to get policies that are difficult to understand and still deny students the right to express themselves.
For example, one section of the policies outlines how the OU Police Department would have final say in “resolving issues of public safety,” and academic and administrative managers would determine whether an activity is disruptive.
But what goes into that process? How will each situation be weighed on a scale of disruptiveness? Given what happened with the last year, is OUPD alone the best group to make those decisions? Those are just some of the questions we’re left with and had hoped would be answered by the end of this year.
We do not think these policies are necessary at all, as we are a public university and our students have the right to speech and protest. If OU insists on keeping this policy in place, it needs to be reworked and clarified. Students should not have to bend over backward to understand their rights on campus — it is entirely on the university to make this clear.
It’s important to understand the climate of OU. Protesting has been a way for students to have their voices heard when they feel as if no one is listening. Protests bring awareness and can bring change as well, and it’s important that students have the opportunity to publicly express what they think.
By creating and continuing to fine-tune a policy about “Freedom of Expression,” those voices remain silenced. The university is actively choosing to let those voices go unheard if it keeps the policies in place, especially if they are so hazy.
In addition to expressing thoughts and ideas, hearing differing opinions is just as important. We should welcome diverse thoughts, and we should have every opportunity to share them.
Everyone should have conversations about the importance of listening to opposing views, and we all need to learn the best way to articulate a message. It’s valuable to have those conversations, but a policy to regulate “Freedom of Expression” is anything but productive.
Editorials represent the majority opinion of The Post's executive editors: editor-in-chief Elizabeth Backo, managing editor Kaitlin Coward, digital managing editor Hayley Harding and senior editor Marisa Fernandez. Post editorials are independent of the publication's news coverage.
Clarification: This editorial has been updated to clarify that the policies are proposed and not finalized.