New Student Guide Focuses On Format, Forgoes Current Free Speech Proposal

Progress on the Undergraduate Government of Boston College’s (UGBC) free speech and expression proposals stalled over the summer. The policies approved by the Student Assembly in the spring were left out of this fall’s revision to the University’s Student Guide. The published Student Guide was updated over the summer primarily for format and clarity.

Following two semesters of meetings between the Office of the Dean of Students and student leaders from UGBC, the newly-organized document—which governs rules of conduct for BC students—was released Monday. The new Guide includes a more extensive list of campus resources and was edited to be more easily readable—resources available to students are consolidated via hyperlinks, rather than long blocks of text.

These changes are what came of a sustained effort by UGBC leaders to update both the format and the content of the Student Guide. The leaders worked with staff from the Office of the Dean of Students, including Corey Kelly, student conduct manager, and Kristen O’Driscoll, assistant dean of students. Although the guide’s format has been changed, as well as certain aspects of the content, few of UGBC’s proposals from the spring made it to text.

Last semester, the Student Assembly passed a free speech and expression proposal, which sought to limit the University’s ability to control the scheduling of protests and distribution of fliers on campus. The proposal included, among other things, the suggestion that a Committee for Free Expression be formed on campus.

“The impetus for this proposal came directly from students; many of BC’s very own social justice groups, from those rallying against climate injustice, to those looking to support our LGBTQ students, to even our most vocal antiracists, expressed concern that their voices were, in one way or another, being restricted,” Thomas Napoli, UGBC president and MCAS ’16, said in an email.

While drafting the Committee for Free Expression, members of UGBC ran into obstacles. Napoli’s understanding, he said, is that the University does not want to be in a position where the Committee for Free Expression would force BC to allow types of expression that run counter to BC’s values. Dialogue will continue, however, surrounding the Free Speech and Expression Proposal.

Boston College is a private university, Dean of Students Thomas Mogan said, so there will always be rights that the University wishes to exercise and students will not support. He noted, however, that he and his office are committed to keeping the dialogue open between students and the administration. They plan to work with students to engage them in planning conversations so that the students and the administration mutually understand the other side.

“I don’t know if we’ll ever get to a full free speech and free expression policy as UGBC envisions it,” Mogan said. “I think there are aspects of the policy that we can work with and we can try to make some progress on, but I think there are some things that are complex, and we’re always going to have differing opinions.”

A draft of the demonstration policy, part of the free speech and expression proposal, will be released to UGBC within the next few weeks, Mogan said.  Members of UGBC will continue to meet with the Office of the Dean of Students to move forward on the free speech and expression proposal.

“While it is disappointing for UGBC and the students most acutely affected by BC’s expression policies that change is not happening sooner, Olivia and I realize that this is a complex subject at a Jesuit, Catholic University,” Napoli said in an email. “That noted, UGBC is more committed than ever in allowing students to practice free speech and expression on campus.”

Featured Image by Drew Hoo / Heights Editor

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Carolyn Freeman is the Editor-in-Chief for The Heights. You can follow her on Twitter at @carolynrfreeman. She drinks her coffee iced with chocolate soy milk.