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Faculty Senators express dissatisfaction with Freedom of Expression policy committee

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Faculty Senate Chair Joe McLaughlin. Photo by Connor Perrett.

Some senators criticized the process, claiming that it was rushed and exclusionary to the public.

In her address to Ohio University’s Faculty Senate on Monday, Interim Provost Elizabeth Sayrs gave an update on the university’s free speech policy.

Sayrs said the Executive Staff Policy Committee hopes to have a proposed policy by April 11. The draft will be vetted through all appropriate senates, and the committee hopes to have the process finished before the end of spring semester.

Faculty Senate member Dr. Bernhard Debatin criticized the process, claiming that it was rushed and exclusionary to the public.

“The committee met behind closed doors; there was no access for the public,” Debatin said. “The only forum that happened was a forum where the committee was not willing to answer any questions. It felt mostly like people were invited to go through the motions so that you can, so that there was an open forum, but there was no dialogue.”

Debatin said the policy recommendations released were contradictory.

“The last recommendation, number 24, in amazing irony given what happened with the Baker 70, says the following, ‘police officers are experts in crowd management and public order. A policy should not strip those experts of their ability to exercise their judgement in handling assemblies,’” Debatin said.

Fellow senate member Dr. Gary Holcomb agreed with Debatin and believes the university does not need a freedom of speech policy because state laws and federal laws have already addressed the issue. He added that having a university policy would restrict civil liberties.

Faculty senators will hold a special meeting on April 16th to discuss the proposed policy.

Senators also held an election during Monday’s meeting to vote for nominees to executive positions within the senate.

The three seats up for vote were the chair, vice chair and secretary, and were won by Joe Mclaughlin, Beth Quitslund and Robin Muhammad, respectively. Each candidate was unopposed. Additionally, the senate welcomed several new senators following their recent elections.

Three resolutions passed

The first resolution passed standardizes a Fall Break. According to the document, the inconsistent nature of the use of Reading Days made it difficult to for faculty to schedule around.

The resolution changes the title of Reading Day to Fall Break and further resolves to hold Fall Breaks on a Friday near the middle of fall semester.

The next two resolutions addressed the processes to review cases of sexual misconduct by faculty members.

The first of these two resolutions, discussed in last month’s faculty senate report, establishes a University Professional Ethics Committee that will review allegations of sexual misconduct by faculty.

The second resolution clarified the process for reviewing the findings of the University Equity and Civil Rights Compliance office when related to faculty misconduct. According to the document, the current process is not clearly stated in the faculty handbook.

For first reading, senators discussed a resolution to allow junior and senior OHIO Honors students to enroll in a maximum of three graduate courses which will only count toward their undergraduate degrees.

Currently, students who are in the Honors Tutorial College, any recognized departmental honors program or within six hours of completing the requirements for a bachelor’s degree and have written permission, are eligible for graduate studies.

Debatin suggested senators reevaluate the last part of the resolution, which allows seniors to earn graduate credit. He added that the policy could be less restrictive, as it only offers seniors graduate classes for their last six hours.

“I think there might be problems if it becomes a complete, open thing in terms of how graduate classes are defined,” Debatin said.

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