Nine points you need to know about the Freedom of Expression philosophy and town hall meeting

The Freedom of Expression philosophy was drafted over the semester break by a Freedom of Expression Workgroup, appointed by President Janet Morgan Riggs ’77. A town hall took place this past Thursday, Feb. 1 as an open forum for questions about the process, the philosophy and the next steps. The workgroup was present as a panel to discuss and answer questions. Here are some relevant points of information for students not up to date on the process.

  • Appointed Freedom of Expression Workgroup by President Riggs
    • Jennifer Bloomquist  – Associate Provost
    • Jeff Foster  – Associate V.P. of College Life
    • Hakim Williams – Professor of Africana Studies
    • Ivanova Reyes  – Professor of Economics
    • Patrick McKenna – Parliamentarian of Student Senate
    • Jeff Oak (absent from panel) – Trustee
    • James Banks (absent from panel) – Trustee
    • Scott Boddery (not apart of workgroup but at panel) – Professor of Political Science

 

  • The charge given to the workgroup by President Riggs :
    • “[President Riggs] asked us if we would lead campus in discussions about freedom of expression with the goal of educating our campus community on this topic as well as soliciting input for an institutional philosophy regarding the freedom of expression. She also asked us if we could develop a statement of institutional philosophy that would provide context to guidance for decision-making and for the development and revision of related policies,” said Associate Provost Bloomquist.

 

  • At the town hall, Prof. Boddery provided legal issues with which the philosophy was constructed within.
    • “First amendment rights are protected from state actors. Private entities — non-state actors — aren’t bound by the first amendment. We sign these all the time — employment contracts, non-disparagement agreements, cell-phone contracts, etc. That’s what we are dealing with here with a private institution. There are some times when private entities are subjected to some sort of federal regulation or protections like with Title IX. Outside of some circumstances, the first amendment is not applicable to private actors.”

 

 

  • There were a number of guiding documents in the creation of this philosophy draft: Gettysburg College’s Freedom of Expression & Civil Discourse Student Policy (from Student Handbook), Academic Freedom Statement (from Faculty Handbook), seven statements from other colleges and universities (including Franklin & Marshall and University of Chicago), etc.

 

  • The three main stakeholders utilized in the crafting of this philosophy were the students, faculty and trustees, which each had round table meetings throughout the process. There was an online questionnaire for feedback on freedom of expression as well. The data was compiled from these round tables and questionnaires — and classified into 58 categories. These were the top ten categories:
  1. Freedom
  2. Expression
  3. Clarity
  4. Policy
  5. Respect
  6. Different Views
  7. Diversity & Inclusion
  8. External Speakers
  9. Critical Thinking
  10. Hate Speech

 

  • “Some groups of the students were strongly debating why did we need a philosophy statement,” said Prof. Reyes, when she was speaking of the student discussion regarding freedom of expression philosophy.

 

  • There were meetings with individual organizations — Latin American Student Association (LASA), Black Student Union (BSU), Interfraternity Council (IFC), College Panhellenic Association (CPA), College Democrats, College Republicans, Outerspace, Young Americans for Freedom (YAF), Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) and Economics Club — where two members of the Freedom of Expression Workgroup facilitated discussion.

 

  • After another brief period of review and critique, the philosophy will be brought before Student Senate, Faculty and Board of Trustees, in this order, for a vote of approval.

 

CLICK HERE for the full draft of the Freedom of Expression Philosophy Statement

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