New policy changes effective immediately
The debate on how – and where – to protest on the SIUC campus has ended after University officials have approved revisions to the on-campus demonstration policy Thursday.
Larry Dietz, the vice chancellor for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management who headed the Demonstration Policy Task Force, said the changes, effective immediately, made by its members will allow an open environment for protests.
“I think what you’ll find is a more concise, a more clear and a more student-friendly free expression policy,” Dietz said.
Among the changes include a second designated area for demonstrations. The area, located north of Morris Library and southwest of Parking Lot 6, is welcomed to any member of the public or campus community to protest provided that the area has not already been reserved.
The Free Forum Area, near Anthony Hall, will be the only place on campus where demonstrators will be allowed to use sound systems for their protest.
Dietz said both areas would be on a “first-come, first-serve” basis. No prior notification will be needed before a demonstration is conducted, but the Office of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management suggests a 24-hour notice in case two groups want to protest in the same place at the same time.
Problems with demonstrators will now be handled through the Office of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management. Dietz said this would provide a “lower key” way in dealing with expression issues.
Before the changes, the University’s policy had only allowed demonstrations to be in the Free Forum Area. Presenters also had to give 24-hour notification before the demonstration occurred.
SIUC’s demonstration policy first came under fire last spring when a graduating senior was charged with violating the Student Conduct Code. On March 19, Marc Torney, along with others, protested the war in Iraq outside the Student Center. He would have faced expulsion from the University if convicted.
Dietz said the demonstration policy was up for review before the incident took place, but interest heightened after the student protest and media attention. Though Torney was cleared of all charges, the incident sparked the formation of a task force to make changes to the policy.
The Demonstration Policy Task Force, comprised of both student and faculty representatives, met six times during the summer and reviewed the policies of other Illinois public universities. The group also looked at policies of 10 peer and aspirant institutions specified in the Southern at 150 plan, which included Kansas State University, Louisiana State University and the University of Colorado.
The task force submitted its suggestions to Chancellor Walter Wendler earlier this semester and those recommendations have been approved by both the chancellor’s and the president’s offices.
“We are doing, I think, a better job coordinating and scheduling activities as a result of the policy,” Dietz said.
Though Torney has since graduated and moved to Texas, he had previously told the Daily Egyptian that he wanted SIUC to promote a plan that would allow students to exercise their right of free speech.
“I’d like to see a demonstration policy reduced to a policy that says the University supports freedom of expression, and the only time it stops is if it affects people’s ability to learn,” he had said.