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Nellis wants Ohio U students to help change free speech policies

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Like other senates this week, Graduate Student Senate wasted no time in criticizing the administration’s new free speech measures. 

Ohio University President Duane Nellis addressed the “Freedom of Expression” and “Use of Outdoor Space on the Athens Campus” policies at the Graduate Student Senate meeting Tuesday night. After the Senate addressed concerns regarding this policy, Nellis voiced his desire for student involvement with revising the policy and his thoughts on unionization. GSS also passed two resolutions.

President Nellis requests student involvement on free speech policy

Nellis spoke about wanting students to propose their own solutions to the current policy’s issues. When Senate members raised concerns about particular wording and sections of the plan, the president asked members to construct their own policy changes that the administration could then consider implementing into the current policy.

“(This policy is) certainly not banning protest in buildings. It allows for that and for registered groups (to protest), but this is a draft,” Nellis said.

“What we were doing, I was waiting for you all to get back (in order) to present this policy so that we could have a discussion on this.”

Joseph Shields, the Vice President for Research and the Dean of the Graduate College, brought up how this process will take time to finalize, but how the current policy was meant to be implemented in order to move conversations forward.

“The policy we drafted was based on similar free speech policies at other local Ohio universities,” Nellis said.

Furthermore, Nellis stated that he wanted the final policy to be a construction of ideas from many different students and administrators across Ohio U.

In order to give students an opportunity to voice their opinions, Nellis said he is willing to hold an open house where students could come and discuss their concerns and plans with the administration.

Additionally, Nellis plans to have a forum about the freedom of expression policy with each college at Ohio U.

GSS raises concerns regarding the current policy

  Members raised the following five concerns about the free speech policy:

  • Wanting to know the date of the final deadline to change the current policy.
  • Wanting clarification on the ambiguity of the general document, while also addressing the detailed description of the types of protest that are banned.
  • Wanting more information on why this policy does not align with the judge’s ruling—which was that the students protesting in Baker should not have been arrested.
  • Wanting to know the administration’s motivations behind creating the policy and the desired effects of the current policies.
  • Wanting an explanation for why students are not permitted to protest on College Green.

Three other key actions at the GSS meeting

  • After one GSS member raised the possibility of unionizing, members proceeded to cite other schools that had already unionized. Nellis spoke to the importance of looking at the benefits and consequences of this action. He also said they should consider where funds would be cut in order to make this a possibility.
  • GSS approved the budget request to fund the Better Bystander Training in the English Department, which is part of the response to recent claims of sexual assault.

The Senate approved a budget request to fund a retractable banner for GSS.

Correction: A previous version of this article indicated that President Duane Nellis was open to Graduate Student Senate unionizing, a statement he did not make.

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