October 07, 2004

Revisions to demonstration policy now in place

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. - - Southern Illinois University Carbondale today (Thursday, Oct. 7) unveiled a new demonstration policy that underscores the University's long-standing commitment to freedom of expression.

The new policy, effective immediately, includes the addition of a second location on campus for scheduled public forums.

The University's demonstration policy, last amended in 1998, was already under review when a case in March involving an SIUC student suggested the need for a more thorough examination, said Larry H. Dietz, vice chancellor for student affairs and enrollment management. Chancellor Walter V. Wendler appointed Dietz to chair a 15-member task force to review the existing policy and recommend improvements.

The task force, which included representatives from all campus constituency groups, met six times over the summer. Members reviewed similar policies at other Illinois public universities, SIUC's peer and aspirant institutions, and a few additional institutions.

"I am mainly pleased we had such a high level of interest from all of the constituency groups that were involved with us," Dietz said. "We had very good attendance of this task force over the summer and I think it is a better policy."

The new policy designates the following locations as public forum areas:

  • Area A: The Free Forum area south of Anthony Hall, north of McAndrew Stadium, between parking lot 10B on the east and the parking garage on the west. Amplified sound is permissible in this area if it does not interfere with classes, events, ceremonies or University operations. Commercial activities associated with the event require advance approval from the Student Center Scheduling Office.
  • Area B: The lawn located north of Morris Library and south and west of parking lot 6 is a public forum for noncommercial free expression. Amplified sound is prohibited because of the proximity of classrooms.

Both areas have a high traffic volume of students, faculty and staff, said Dietz. Any member of the public or University community may use either area for free expression on a first-come, first-serve basis, provided the area is not already reserved. To reserve the areas, contact Dietz's office 24 hours in advance of the planned event.

The rest of the campus is also open for noncommercial free expression, as long as there is no obstruction or disruption of campus activities and classes, Dietz said.

"I think perception is often times a person's reality, whether it is factual or not," he said. "My sense in talking with the task force is that the perception was that the University was more about control than we were about encouraging the freedom of expression. That is a perception that we want to change, because that never was the case."

However, he also said the exercise of freedom of speech requires respect for the rights of others.

"The exciting part of University life is having people have differences of opinion and being able to express those freely. In the process, we can be educated sometimes in different directions by those differences of opinion," he said.

Mark A. Schneider, an associate professor of sociology and task force member, said the group considered various policy options, all designed to encourage freedom of expression on campus.

"I believe the new policy will meet the objections to 'free speech zones' that have successfully been raised in federal court, as well as eliminate ambiguities in the current policy that left citizens unsure of their rights to free expression on campus," Schneider said. "With the adoption of this policy, these rights are now firmly guaranteed, and they are guaranteed everywhere on campus."

Other task force committee members are: Jake Baggott, assistant director, Student Health Programs; Carl W. Ervin, coordinator, Student Development; Catherine A. Hagler, executive director, Adminstration; Eric R. Waltmire, SIUC law student; Kerry P. Cole, accountant, Office of the Provost and Vice Chancellor; Lee Ellen Starkweather, retired, general counsel; Manjunath Pendakur, dean, College of Mass Communication and Fine Arts; Nancy Hunter Pei, assistant to the vice chancellor for student affairs and enrollment management; Sheila J. Simon, assistant professor, SIUC law school; Sue Davis, executive director, Media and Communication Resources; Tequia Hicks, president, Undergraduate Student Government; Terry G. Huffman, coordinator, Student Judicial Affairs; and Todd D. Sigler, director, Department of Public Safety.

Responding effectively to factors that suggest a need for innovation and change is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.