April 30, 2004

Chancellor's letter

SIUC Chancellor Walter V. Wendler asked that we forward this letter to you today.
It was read at the judicial affairs hearing for Marc Torney ealier today.

April 30, 2004

Terry G. Huffman
Student Judicial Affairs Coordinator
Mail Code 4718
Southern Illinois University Carbondale
Carbondale, Ill. 62901

Dear Mr. Huffman:

I wish to express my unconditional support of our constitutional guarantee of free speech and the exercise of that right at Southern. Nothing is more important to the foundation of higher education than the free flow of ideas and opinions. Students on our campus, including Mr. Marc Torney, enjoy all of the rights expressed in the Constitution. At the same time, we must be careful that in exercising those free speech rights, we do not infringe on the rights of others.

As Chancellor, I inherited our current demonstration policy, last updated in 1998. Leaders on campus began considering updates to the policy more than a year ago. Events of recent weeks lead me to believe this is the appropriate path. In the months ahead, Larry H. Dietz, our Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, will continue the process, which calls for involvement from students, faculty and staff. Our goal is to have a new proposal for the entire campus community to review during fall semester. We expect a discussion period to follow the start of school and hope a new policy could be in place by the end of fall semester. I would encourage all members of the campus community to make their voices heard during this process.

There are many half-truths and misconceptions circulating about the current demonstration policy. The current campus-wide policy lets anyone demonstrate anywhere they wish on campus with a single day's notice, as long as the demonstration doesn't interrupt other ongoing activities, compromise health, safety or welfare, or destroy public or private property. The free forum area is open to everyone without notice and more than one group or individual can use the space at a time.

I have asked Vice Chancellor Dietz to consider forming a committee to review the location of our no-notice-required demonstration area. For years, this has been the free forum area that has lent itself to high foot traffic and the center of campus, and adjacent to the campus administrative offices. While we publicized work on the extensive repairs of the north pedestrian overpass, no one voiced a concern about moving the no-notice-required demonstration area until just a few weeks ago. Other suitable locations likely exist on campus for the short time the overpass will remain closed. At this point, we expect the overpass to be completed by the beginning of fall term. I have asked Dr. Dietz to give consideration to an alternative location, but that might take some time to determine, as was the case with the present location.

The university is an intellectual marketplace. To stifle the exchange of ideas undermines our very purpose. The communication channels for ideas must be orderly and responsive to established community standards. This posture protects the health safety and welfare of all. The rights of people who express ideas must be protected. Higher education in the United States is the very best in the world, unequivocally. One of the reasons for the consummate quality of our higher education system is the relationship between the free expression of ideas guaranteed by the constitution, and the consequence of that freedom on discovery, invention, and the ultimate purpose of education, changed lives.

I know you will carefully and considerately review the case, circumstances and context of Mark's situation. For this, the campus community is in your debt and appreciative of your service.



Walter V. Wendler