Home Campus Students Against Being Silenced holds public forum against Freedom of Expression policy

Students Against Being Silenced holds public forum against Freedom of Expression policy

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It’s not every day Republicans, Democrats, Socialists and Libertarians can stand together in agreement, but on Thursday they did.

Seven major political student organizations held the Students Against Being Silenced public forum Thursday in order to discuss Ohio University’s contentious “Freedom of Expression” interim policy and to seek its immediate repeal.

The policy, which has been debated by organizations like Student Senate, requires that groups wishing to protest or organize indoors must first apply for and reserve the space.  

The organizations present at the forum were the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Ohio University College Democrats (OUCD), the Ohio University College Republicans (OUCD), the International Socialist Organization (ISO), the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Students for Liberty (SFL) and the Young Americans for Liberty (YAL).

Each representative of the organizations present at the public forum delivered a speech highlighting their organization’s reason for demanding the interim policy be repealed.

The OUCD representative Alex Jackson said be believes the university intends to use this policy as a means of justifying the arrest of 70 students in Baker last march.

Tyler Barton of the ISO claimed that the “Freedom of Expression” policy is directly opposed to socialist ideals.

“Socialists fight to defend and extend the right to freedom of expression, because without it, the realization of democracy, and therefore socialism, is impossible,” Barton said.

WATCH: Livestream coverage of the Freedom of Expression Forum

Mark Brown of the NAACP expressed his organization’s concern surrounding the ambiguity and inconsistency of the policy as it currently stands.

Gabi Maylock, campus coordinator for SFL, condemned the school for instituting a policy she believes is repressive.

“Public institutions do not have the right to to take away our speech,” Maylock said.

“At the end of the day, this policy is oppressive.”

The forum was also open to public comment or questioning, and many students raised their opinions on how the matter should be handled.

One question asked to the panel was whether panel members’ organizations support the ability to protest with hate speech on campus.

Brea Muzykoski of the Ohio U chapter of the ACLU stated that her organization does not defend hate speech, but rather supports the right to offensive speech.

Other panelists claimed that a policy regarding the issue was irrelevant because laws against inciteful hate speech already exist and such a policy would be redundant.

The panel also stressed the unity of the political organizations and their desire to work towards the repeal of the policy.

Students, like Jack Davies (pictured), participated in the discussion.
Students, like Jack Davies (pictured), participated in the discussion.

President of OUCR Ryan Evans expressed his desire to continue to advocate as a uniform body for the repeal of the policy.

Many members of the public expressed their interest in seeing public protest, as well as directly engaging the administration in an attempt to see the interim policy removed.  Several members of the panel openly expressed interest in continuing to organize as a united body against the policy in the future.

Many Ohio U students such as Jack Davies stated that they also want to see the political organizations continue to work together on a fundamental level.

“Ultimately what I would like to be reassured of is that there is some sort of communication between all of us so we can coordinate actions,” Davies said.

Associate Professor of Philosophy Alyssa Bernstein suggested that any potential protesters should consider peaceful and non-confrontational solutions that can still achieve the goals of those opposed to the policy.

In an interview, Evans issued a statement denouncing the policy.

“College Republicans as well as everyone tonight are in extreme opposition to this policy, and its implementation oppresses the student,” Evans said.

The ISO urged everyone to attend an upcoming protest against the policy that will take place on Friday, Oct. 20 at 5:30 p.m. outside the Athens courthouse.

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