Home Campus Faculty Senate opposes freedom of expression policy, discusses budget

Faculty Senate opposes freedom of expression policy, discusses budget

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Faculty Senate Chair Joe McLaughlin. Photo by Connor Perrett.

At its Monday night meeting, Ohio U’s Faculty Senate unanimously passed a resolution against the university’s interim Freedom of Expression Policy, and discussed a potential $20 million budget shortfall. 

Ohio U Faculty Senate unanimously passes resolution against Freedom of Expression Policy

Faculty Senate passed a resolution condemning the interim speech policy’s ambiguity and limitation of student’s rights.

“Freedom of expression is protected by the First Amendment and academic freedom is the cornerstone of higher education,” begins the lengthy list of reasons condemning the policy.

Monday night’s Faculty Senate meeting, which started by listing the grounds on which the group requests the immediate rescinding of this policy, saw the quick passing of this resolution.

“There absolutely needs to be lattitude for there to be spontaneous protests, there need to be indoor spaces on campus for that to happen,” Faculty Senate Chair Joe McLaughlin said.

This sentiment was reflected by all members of the body as they unanimously voted in favor of the resolution and were receptive to the extension of open commentary until Oct. 20.

After the initial condemnations, the senate gave suggestions for amendment. The resolution asks for the necessity of a policy in the first place to be questioned. It also asks for a clear definition on how university officials will respond to incidents, including the de-escalation of conflicts as a primary means of peacemaking.

If the university should decide to draft a new policy, the senate asks that it does not make “blanket prohibitions of political speech and assembly,” that provisions will be made to allow for spontaneous indoor and outdoor protest and that the definition of the word “disruptive” as used in the policy will be made more clear.

“Whether it’s speech or the kinds of places where speech needs to take place, the default position has to absolutely be, ‘Yes, this is permissible,’” McLaughlin said.

President Nellis, Provost Descutner and Associate Provost for Academic Budget and Planning discuss budget

Ohio University is in its early stages of budget planning, and there could be as much as a $20 million budget gap.

“For all intents and purposes, our revenue is flat,” Associate Provost for Academic Budget and Planning John Day said regarding state cuts Ohio U is facing.

“We haven’t seen cuts like this since 2008,” Descutner added.

The administration has asked the deans of all the colleges to prepare a plan to outline operation under 7 percent funding cuts.

Several senators asked what would become of their programs with such severe budget cuts. Fears about losing the research-friendly nature of the school were also presented by several members of Faculty Senate.

In response, Nellis reminded senators that these cuts were not yet official and that he wants to work with colleges so that any cuts will be geared toward streamlining programs as opposed to being harmful to programs.

Some faculty, however, already feel the effects of the impending cuts. Senator Sherrie Gradin pointed out that her department, English, has already begun to prepare for the cuts.

Professor Bernhard Debatin of the journalism department pointed out that in recent years, his program has actually decreased faculty at the highest level, from 23 to 17, while overall student numbers have remained the same.

Tensions across faculty and administrators alike were visible as both groups prepare to face these cuts.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to more accurately portray comments made by Professor Bernhard Debatin.

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One Comment

  1. Bernhard Debatin

    October 17, 2017 at 9:44 PM

    “Professor Bernhard Debatin of the journalism department pointed out that in recent years, his program has actually decreased its faculty of the highest level, while overall student numbers have increased.”
    Actually, I said: we have about the same number of students but a heavy decrease of Group I faculty since 2006 (from 23 to 17).


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