In Momentous Decision, UGBC Votes for More Free Speech On Campus

UGBC and its student assembly voted for more free speech on campus on Sunday night, passing the resolution with 22 yay votes, with three abstentions. The resolution is non-binding; parts of the policy could be revised at a later date.

The resolution as it stands includes many changes to current campus policy. It allows for a group of 15 or more students unaffiliated with a registered student organization to post fliers on campus after approval by the Office of Student Involvement (OSI). Currently, students unaffiliated with a registered student organization are not allowed to post fliers on campus.

"The reasoning for this policy is that right now, if you're an individual student, you can't even apply to put up a flier," said Thomas Napoli, A&S '16, who helped design the policy.

The resolution also includes a section on demonstrations. As it stands, demonstrations are divided into two different levels. Smaller demonstrations, which don't have speakers or require any setup or equipment, won't require a permit. These demonstrations will be restricted to specific parts of campus. The second level of demonstrations will be larger, require some kind of stage or equipment, and involve speakers, like Rights on the Heights earlier this year. These will need to be approved ahead of time.

Ella Jenak / Gavel Media

Ella Jenak / Gavel Media

An integral part of the policy is the creation of a Committee on Free Expression, to which decisions made by OSI can be appealed. The Committee is intended to increase transparency and give students an avenue to appeal decisions regarding free speech.

"It would clarify to the students about why those decisions have been made," said Meredith McCaffrey, A&S '17.

This resolution is the culmination of a year-long process. During the fall, UGBC hosted many focus groups and town hall meetings to gather input on the policy. Members of UGBC met frequently with the Dean of Students office to work on the policy, a process that both Dean Mogan and UGBC members referred to as positive and productive.

Dean Mogan spoke at the meeting, answering students' questions and offering some concerns from the Dean of Students Office about specific parts of the policy, including the multi-level demonstration policy and the section allowing a group of 15 students to put up a flier.

“In terms of the 15 students, what we want to try to make sure is that it doesn’t circumvent the process of becoming a regular student group. That’s a process that UGBC has a significant role in, and we want to protect that process," Mogan said.

Dean Mogan was very positive about the creation of the Committee on Free Expression and increasing transparency.

"The students obviously have the right to express their opinions and to be given an appropriate forum to express those opinions," he said. "And students have the responsibility to maintain the Jesuit values of this institution."

The resolution is expected to be discussed more over the summer, with certain sections possibly being revised or clarified. It could go into effect as early as next fall.

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