Advocates of free speech policy change on campus are likely to see some tangible modifications to the Student Guide next year, although the final reforms may strike those familiar with the initial Free Speech and Expression Policy as significantly scaled down and modified. On Sunday evening, the Student Assembly of the Undergraduate Government of Boston College (UGBC) voted to pass a rewritten version of the policy, which includes several revisions to the Student Guide with the aim of expanding student rights.
The policy was sponsored by Thomas Napoli, senator and A&S ’16, Meredith McCaffrey, senator and A&S ’17, and Molly Newcomb, senator and A&S ’17. The policy passed by an overwhelming majority, with three senators opting to abstain from the vote. This leaves the University administration to decide whether it will honor the official position of UGBC on these policy reforms.
Thomas Mogan, dean of students, spoke at the UGBC meeting to clarify the challenges administrators feel face the proposed Student Guide changes. Members of the Institutional Policy Review committee, which Napoli heads, have met with Mogan continuously throughout the semester to revise the proposed changes. Over the course of these meetings, the policy has become markedly more conservative. For example, an earlier draft of the proposal stated that a group of five students or more could post fliers. That number has now been bumped up to 15 students.
“What it is now is so much more moderate and conservative than what it was then,” Olivia Hussey, senator and A&S ’17, said in the meeting. “My only qualms with the resolution and the proposal is that we almost gave up too much. That’s how progress works. It’s inch by inch.”
One notable part of the Free Speech and Expression Policy that Mogan supports is the creation of a Committee on Free Expression.
This would be a board that reviews decisions made in the approval of campus fliers and programming, comprised of the dean of students, professors, graduate students, and undergraduate students. The Committee would be given jurisdiction over decisions made by the Office of Student Involvement on the appropriateness of student requests.
“The Committee on Free Expression, I think, is the biggest one and I think thats a big move for us,” Mogan said. “It’s probably something we should have been doing.”
The University’s demonstration policy has been in contention this past semester, with a few protest proposals being rejected by the Office of the Dean of Students. Currently, only Registered Student Organizations can apply.
The new policy differentiates between smaller protests without amplifiers or stages and larger protests, like the Rights on the Heights rallies that involve amplifiers and stages. Students would only need to apply for a permit for the second level. One problem Mogan noted with this proposal is the distinction between the two levels of protests.
“Even though organizers may have the best intentions at heart, they can’t always be 100 percent sure that things are going to work out,” Mogan said.
Moving forward, Mogan and members of UGBC will meet this summer to further discuss the policy. He and his office are committed to making sure the students are involved this summer, he said.
Mogan believes that the University will see some tangible benefits in the fall semester—but it might not be the full policy, he noted.
Though the policy passed, it is not binding. Rather, it is a recommendation from UGBC to the administration, Napoli said.
“It’s amazing how that dialogue has transitioned from a very theoretical and policy discussion into a very real discussion this year when we’ve had a series of high profile protests,” Napoli said. “Suddenly this is a campus that is very aware of free speech and expression and how that affects their daily lives.”
Featured Image by Daniella Fasciano / Heights Editor