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Feedback sought on Freedom of Expression policy

10.8.2013

By Dave Jones

AT A GLANCE

The draft policy is available online.

Comments may be submitted via an online tool on the draft policy’s website. The committee is seeking input by Oct. 31.

A broad-based committee has released a draft version of a Freedom of Expression policy for the campus and is encouraging feedback at a series of forums starting next week.

“The committee would like your input on the draft policy — and an opportunity to make appropriate edits — before the formal review process,” said Ralph J. Hexter, provost and executive vice chancellor, and Kevin Johnson, dean of the School of Law. Hexter convened the committee last spring, and Johnson is the chair.

The Blue Ribbon Committee for Freedom of Expression includes faculty (Academic Senate and Academic Federation), staff representatives, and undergraduate students and graduate students. See membership.

The draft policy attempts to balance First Amendment rights at UC Davis with the university’s responsibility to protect students, staff and faculty from a hostile environment as defined by law, and to allow them to pursue their normal activities.

Hexter and Johnson sent a campus email last week “to request your involvement with an issue of great importance to any campus, and particularly to the UC Davis campus community, freedom of expression.”

“Freedom of expression is not a simple issue,” Hexter and Johnson wrote, “and its impact touches every member of the campus community — undergraduate and graduate students, academics, staff and administrators.”

The three-page draft declares the university “is committed to assuring that all persons may exercise their constitutionally protected rights of free expression, speech, assembly and worship, even when the positions advocated are controversial or unpopular.”

However, the draft policy also notes that the university has various core values and interests that it must protect and promote, because they are essential to the university’s effective functioning. The draft lists three of these values and interests:

  • The opportunity for all members of the university community to attain their educational objectives.
  • The generation and maintenance of an appropriate intellectual and educational atmosphere throughout the university community.
  • The protection of the health, safety, welfare, property and civil and human rights of all members of the university community, and the safety and property interests of the university.

“Although endorsing freedom of expression, this policy does not relieve the university from its obligations to protect the right of students, staff and faculty to learn, live and work in an environment free from unlawful harassment and intimidation,” the draft policy states.

Toward that end, the draft policy declares that “carefully crafted and narrow time, place and manner regulations” are necessary to:

  • Protect and promote the rights of all members of the university community.
  • Prevent interference with university functions or activities.
  • Assure compliance with applicable laws and policies.
  • Provide reasonable protection for individuals who otherwise may be involuntary audiences or be placed in reasonable fear for their safety.

In expanding on time, place and manner regulations, the draft policy declares that “public spaces, including sidewalks, lobbies, courtyards, hallways and other paths, thoroughfares and open areas must be maintained to permit orderly and safe access and travel for pedestrians, and, where appropriate, bicycles and other vehicles.”

The draft policy references existing UC Davis policies, including a prohibition on overnight camping on university property, and these rules that apply to anyone on university property or attending an official university function. No one, the policy declares, may:

  • Knowingly and willfully interfere with the campus or any campus facility by unlawfully intimidating, harassing or obstructing any university employee, student or any other person having lawful business with the university.
  • Block entrances or otherwise interfere with the free flow of traffic in and out of campus buildings.
  • Engage in the production of excessive sound or noise that significantly disrupts campus activities.
  • Engage in physically abusive, threatening, harassing or intimidating conduct in violation of law or university policy toward any person.

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