Campus speech restrictions should be loosened, Faculty Council says

The council unanimously sent two proposals to the Board of Curators and tabled two other recommendations for further discussion.

Free speech policies on campus could be broadened if the Board of Curators accepts the suggestions from Faculty Council to revise the MU Business Policy and Procedures Manual.

Faculty Council voted unanimously Thursday to recommend that the Board of Curators adopt two proposals to revise the manual.

Currently, there is no established process for changing the manual, but the council expects the curators to consider their advice seriously.

The council recommended that a rule in the manual requiring university permission before distributing written materials be replaced. The new language allows distribution of written and digital materials outside of buildings without prior approval from the university’s administrative services, as long as the materials do not advertise the availability of alcohol or imply they are connected with MU.

Council Chairman Ben Trachtenberg suggested removing a portion of the proposal that would ban distribution of coupons and advertisements.

Trachtenberg said his colleagues in the law school were concerned MU could face a lawsuit if advertisements were banned, as they are considered commercial speech.

“And frankly, people might be more interested in advertisements about the price of milk than my opinions on the presidential election,” Trachtenberg said.

The council also recommended removing a line in the manual that advises MU employees to contact the MU News Bureau when approached by reporters. Faculty Council Academic Affairs Committee Chairman Art Jago said he submitted the proposal because he thought the line might intimidate some employees.

He said he felt the line could infringe on an employee’s right to free expression.

“It wasn’t so much a problem for me, but I put myself into the mindset of a non-tenured faculty member, or a contingent faculty member,” Jago said.

Journalism professor Berkley Hudson said several of his colleagues could not believe the provision existed, and there is consensus in the School of Journalism to eliminate the line.

Two other proposals to revise the manual were tabled for the next council meeting on Nov. 3. One of the proposals would loosen restrictions on sidewalk chalking on campus.

Current rules prohibit writing in chalk on university property, including sidewalks. The council tabled that proposal to give members time to consider feedback from Robert Jerry, law professor and chairman of the MU Ad Hoc Joint Committee on Protests, Public Spaces, Free Speech and the Press.

The council will also vote at the next meeting on proposed revisions to a rule in the manual banning the use of sound amplifiers without a permit. The revisions would allow for sound amplifiers like megaphones to be used without a permit as long as they are not disrupting any classes.

Edited by Claire Mitzel |

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