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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Freedom of Expression policy needs improvements, but should stay

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Letter to the Editor

This Letter to the Editor was sent to The New Political by a self-described concerned graduate student. It was edited for clarity.

I’m not sure why this so-called “freedom of speech” policy has become such a divisive and emotionally charged issue. I’d like to remind those reading that the average individual at Ohio University is politically left of center. Which, I’d argue, means most of us hold similar values and desire common outcomes. We’re on the same team.

Numerous times over the last few months I’ve heard that Ohio University has been given a “Yellow Light” rating by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. In the interest of accurately stating the position of FIRE, I would suggest you review their stance on Ohio University Policy 24.014: Freedom of Expression. It received a “Green Light” rating and was highlighted in a recent report by The New Political.

I’d happily agree that the policy is not perfect. It contains ambiguous wording, and must be revised before this interim policy is officially adopted. But I disagree that it needs to be rescinded.

Groups on campus continue to suggest that their right to free speech is all encompassing, and that there should be no restrictions on time, place or manner. I would argue that a protest in an academic building disrupting my class would be a violation of both mine and my students’ personal rights to pursue an education. In fact, should anyone decide to disrupt that educational process, I would not hesitate to call the police.

This demonstrates why such a policy is important. Policy helps govern what is acceptable and what is not. Instead of the police having to make a judgement in the moment we can thoughtfully contribute to a set of guidelines that protects the rights of ALL people.

So, I’d ask that you consider two questions:
1) Have you critically read the policy?
2) Have you shared your constructive criticism with your shared governance representatives?

You’ve not been silenced. You’re being heard. Just remember that everyone’s thoughts, feelings, ideas and rights matter. Yours don’t exist in a vacuum.

With all due respect,
A concerned graduate student

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