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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)

Ohio University finalizes policies on campus expression

Ohio University President Duane Nellis approved three new policies regarding free speech on Thursday.

The policies outline the university’s stance on free expression as well as the time, place and manner regulations on the use of indoor and outdoor spaces for demonstrations, protests, marches and gatherings.

“We affirm the value of free expression, but applying these broad values to our campuses is complex,” the Statement of Commitment to Free Expression policy reads.

The new policies on the use of indoor and outdoor spaces define reservation requirements for gatherings and permission for amplified sound, such as microphones and speakers. The new policies also outline disruption and regulations for distributing literature. 

In August 2017, Nellis signed two interim policies on use of campus space that banned “demonstrations, rallies, public speech-making, picketing, sit-ins, marches, protests, and similar assemblies” inside university buildings and gave individualized guidelines for outdoor spaces on campus, according to a previous Post report

A month later, he established a Presidential Policy Advisory Group to research and guide policy development. 

The group included Scripps College of Communication Dean Scott Titsworth, representatives from each senate on campus, OU Chief of Police Andrew Powers and Legal Affairs representative Grant Garber.

During the 2017-18 academic year, the group held a public forum and private meetings in an effort to create a permanent policy to reflect OU’s stance on free speech. 

They were met with sharp criticism during the comment period and beyond, however, because students, faculty, staff and community members felt the meetings should be public and that the policies were in response to the 70 arrests at Baker Center during a protest President Donald Trump’s immigration policies in Feb. 2017.

In April, the group released 24 recommendations for the policies which affirmed the importance of expression, but also stated that Cutler Hall and the Baker Center atrium should not be used for “protests, demonstrations, or similar activities,” according to a previous Post report.  

In the new policies, demonstrations are permitted in Baker Center and classrooms with or without reservation, when the space is not being used. 

Those recommendations were used to help the Executive Staff Policy Committee draft a set of guidelines in April and subsequently, establish permanent policies. 

After a feedback period from April to May, the policy committee continued gathering information from students, faculty and staff to finalize the three new policies. 


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