The Student government senate unanimously voted to affirm Chapman’s Statement on Free Speech during its senate meeting Feb. 26.
The Student government had originally disagreed with the statement mentioning that the university can regulate “time, place and manner of expression to ensure that it does not disrupt the essential activities of the university,” and brought it to the attention of Chancellor Daniele Struppa, said Student Government President Josh Nudelman. The statement was originally ratified by the faculty senate Sept. 18, 2015.
Jerry Price, dean of students and vice chancellor for student affairs, said the administration is willing to listen to students’ opinions but will not change the statement.
“I wish I would have recommended that we give (student government) a chance to weigh in or respond sooner,” he said. “Since it’s a policy there was no benefit to excluding them. It’s up for discussion but not really up for debate.”
Tansu Philip, a senior political science and broadcast journalism major, said that it is important to hold onto all rights, including freedom of speech.
“I understand that in some situations it can be used to offend people, and I don’t support that, but it is free speech and people are entitled (to it),” she said.
Nudelman brought the statement to the senate’s attention during the final senate meeting of the fall semester to see what the senators thought about it. Nudelman said that the senators did not approve or agree with the statement and that they wanted to understand why they were excluded from the creation of it.
“Students had issues with what the ‘time, place and manner’ meant. Who is the university? Is it senior staff? Who regulates what the procedure is for punishment and how does that go?” Nudelman said.
Cynthia Papp, a freshman peace studies major, strongly believes that free speech is one of the most important rights as an American.
“We’re given that right in the Constitution and I don’t believe any institution or university can take that away from us,” Papp said. “It doesn’t matter if we’re kids, students or adults.”
Struppa discussed the statement with student government at its Feb. 26 meeting before student government took a vote on it.
“When we hear or see something we disagree with, we should not seek its suppression but rather should offer counterarguments and different viewpoints, and use discourse, not censorship,” Struppa said.
Senior staff was seeking no approval from the students, however, Nudelman invited Struppa to answer any questions and concerns the senate might have about the policy.
Price also sat in on the meeting and gave examples of what ‘time, place and manner’ meant in the statement.
“If a student social justice group wanted to hold a film screening for their members, they had it in the Student Union ballroom and somebody didn’t like the message of that screening, they’d have a right to protest it,” Price said. “They could set up outside, signs, whatever … and protest it. That’s their right. But we wouldn’t let them into the screening and disrupt their screening.”
Price and Struppa want the students to understand that they can express anything, but the university will put limits on where and when they can express it. Price said the statement is a value statement and their meeting with student government was a way of communicating where the university stands concerning this statement.
“I think (student government) felt like that maybe there was something hidden in ‘time, place and manner’ like a little ‘catch all’ phrase, but there isn’t,” Price said.
Price also gave the example that students may be able to shout out obscenities at a concert, but would not be allowed to do so during a memorial service at the Fish Interfaith Center.
Nudelman said he learned a lot more about the statement and what it entailed during Struppa’s presentation.
“I’m just trying to get student government involved in every aspect of this university, even the ones that we’re not directly advocating on,” Nudelman said. “We are still invited to the table no matter what.”
Kelsey Dalzell, student government’s director of public relations, released a statement about student government approving and supporting the Statement on Free Speech. It is posted on student government’s social media as well as on its website.
Nudelman informed senate that student government will now be more included in faculty senate decisions.
“Struppa had a very positive attitude and he is very for the students,” Nudelman said. “He really wants to make sure the students’ voices are heard.”