Home Campus Ohio U approves new Freedom of Expression policy this summer

Ohio U approves new Freedom of Expression policy this summer

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The "Baker 70" protest inside Baker Center in February 2017. File photo by Heather Willard

In the wake on-campus demonstrations,  protests must adhere to new administrative guidelines

Ohio University President Duane Nellis approved three policies this summer regarding expression on campus that replaced two interim policies enacted in August 2017.

The new policies outline processes to reserve space for gatherings and protests. It also requires permission for the indoor use of “amplified sounds,” which include microphones, speakers, and bullhorns.

Despite initial concerns with the original policy, Ohio University Student Senate has endorsed the new revisions.

“Overall, Student Senate views this policy as a positive affirmation of the First Amendment and the valuable tradition of free speech at this public institution,” Madison Sloat, Ohio U Student Senate president, said in an email.

However, not all of senate’s recommendations were included in the final changes.

“As representatives of the student body, Student Senate’s leadership knows that this policy did not cover every concern that students had, including the use of Baker rotunda for protests, but understands that some compromises had to be made in this process.”

The policies also define guidelines for distributing literature, disruptive conduct, and handling interactions between Ohio U officials and demonstrators.

Providing they don’t disrupt prior reservations at the same space, indoor protests without reservations are permitted in the following areas of campus: Baker Center conference rooms, atrium spaces, and empty classrooms.

The Baker Center rotunda was the site of the “Baker 70” demonstration, where 70 Ohio U students were arrested and charged with criminal trespassing while protesting President Donald Trump’s travel ban in January 2017.

These revised policies were released after roughly a year of debate and consideration. During that time, the Presidential Policy Advisory Group was established.

The group consisted of members from each Ohio U senate, the Scripps College of Communication Dean Scott Titsworth, Legal Affairs representative Grant Garber, and Ohio U Chief of Police Andrew Powers — the group made 24 recommendations for the policy.

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