Home Campus OPINION: Ohio U’s Freedom of Expression policy needs trashed, not revised

OPINION: Ohio U’s Freedom of Expression policy needs trashed, not revised

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Students protest the university's interim Freedom of Expression policy. Photo by Connor Perrett

Ohio University announced in October plans for an advisory council to review feedback on the school’s controversial Freedom of Expression policy. Opinion writer Tim Zelina says changes won’t solve the problem.

The Ohio University administration met with Student Senate President Landen Lama earlier this month to discuss the controversial Freedom of Expression policy that has caused quite a ruckus on campus. Following the meeting, Lama announced that the administration had convened a council to revise the administration’s resolution. This council consists of Scripps College Dean Scott Titsworth, members from the five campus senates and the police chief of Ohio U, Andrew Powers. A noble group of advisors, but unfortunately this council completely steamrolls the real concern of the opposition.

What is the real concern? This resolution simply is not needed.

By agreeing to this council, President Lama and the Student Senate have played directly into the administration’s hands. Agreeing to revise the policy means that at some level, the policy WILL continue to exist. To make matters worse, any revisions made by the council will still ultimately be allowed or denied by the Office of the President, meaning that this council is more a rubber stamp brigade than it is a voice of the campus.

Bobcat students and faculty need not forget why this resolution was created in the first place. After the Baker University Center occupation in defiance of Trump’s immigration ban, Ohio U ordered police to arrest dozens of peaceful protesters sitting in a circle where one could easily walk by them. The claim was that they were trespassing and obstructing the free flow of movement. Any lawyer worth their salt would know this was a flimsy excuse for the arrest. The administration’s justification simply could not stand up in court, and it is dropping the charges rather than risking the embarrassment of mass not-guilty verdicts.

In response, the administration decided rather than admit defeat, they’d just rewrite the laws so next time, they really can charge the students. This flagrant attempt to suppress free speech is what outraged much of the campus, who banded together to voice unified dissent to the new policy. Now, instead of discarding the policy as the faculty and students have clearly demanded, the administration thinks they can just ‘revise it’, still slipping through their agenda while pretending our voices have been heard.

This is unacceptable. Ohio U has existed peacefully for over 200 years without this ludicrous free speech restriction. The policy is at its core entirely unnecessary and needs to be thrown out entirely. Masquerading it as a democratic process by waving it in front of some faux council is insulting to those of us who have been asking the Ohio U administration to listen to the very people their jobs are meant to service.

Ohio U is not acting in our best interests in this action, and Lama’s eager capitulation to Nellis’s power play is extremely disappointing. If Student Senate really wants to represent the students of Ohio University, they will refuse to attend this insulting council. In the meantime, the rest of us should continue to voice opposition to any legitimization of this abusive policy.

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