Dear Staff: Following the May Board of Trustees meeting, Kathy Walters, chair of the Board of Trustees, announced that the Board had approved a change to the University bylaws to appoint a staff member as representative to the Board. In…
Chancellor Syverud Provides Update to Campus Community on Free Speech Report
Yesterday, Chancellor Kent Syverud provided an update to the campus community regarding the status of the Free Speech Report. The Chancellor’s full update is provided below:
Members of the Syracuse University Community:
Syracuse University is committed to academic freedom and freedom of expression. Over the past year, the Syracuse community has discussed how our policies could be revised to reflect that commitment. I appreciate the hard work and thoughtful contributions of everyone who has participated in this discussion–including the Student Association, GSO, the Student Bar Association, University Senate, and especially the Working Group on Free Speech.
Over the summer I have carefully considered all of the recommendations made by the Working Group, the feedback on the Working Group’s Report from members of the community, and advice from legal counsel. Based on this review, the University will implement many of the Working Group’s proposals, which will strengthen and more accurately reflect our commitment to freedom of expression on campus.
Adoption of specific Working Group proposals will require revision of certain University policies. The revisions will be led by identified policy sponsors, with input from relevant stakeholders and the wider campus community. The updated policies will then be vetted by the University’s Policy Advisory Committee and the Executive Team. The affected policies will be revised as follows:
- Our University’s anti-harassment policies should be revised so they serve all members of our community and reflect key objectives, including:
- Our policies should be internally consistent, easily accessible, and should promote free speech and debate that occurs in a peaceful manner.
- Respectful protests and counter-protests are part of the exchange of ideas and should be fiercely defended on campus.
- Protests should not be used to silence or disrupt speakers on our campus.
- Speech that threatens the peace on campus should not be tolerated.
- Speech, including speech that is profane or sometimes even offensive, must be protected so long as it does not rise to the level of harassment or threaten the safety of others.
- We must comply with our legal obligations, including under Title IX, to protect our community members from discrimination.
It is only with all of these obligations in mind that we can revise the University’s anti-harassment policies so that they serve all members of our community. The Office of Equal Opportunity, Inclusion & Resolution Services will lead efforts to revise the applicable anti-harassment policies.
- Our community will benefit by policies that clarify when and how banners and signs may be displayed on campus, and how building bulletin boards and other posting surfaces can be used and curated. The Office of Residence Life and deans from the schools and colleges will lead efforts to revise the Campus Posting Policy.
- For members of the university community, the Quad and similar spaces should be treated as forums for debate and assembly, subject to reasonable time, place and manner restrictions. This does not mean, however, that all campus spaces must or should be equally accessible at all times to members of the public who are not affiliated with the University. For security purposes, and to ensure that assemblies on campus are relevant to our community, it is at times appropriate to distinguish between members of the community and non-members when granting access to campus spaces. The University must also maintain the ability to ensure that protests do not disrupt the operations of daily life and learning on campus, or threaten the health and safety of those who live, study, and work here. Current policies in place that govern the use of these spaces reflect these concepts, and the Department of Public Safety will be primarily responsible for ensuring that the policies are working as designed.
- Syracuse’s Computing and Electronic Communications Policy should be revised. This policy touches nearly every aspect of our University, from our social interactions to academic study and the business operations of the University. We should clarify that students and faculty may use and distribute copyrighted materials in a manner that is consistent with fair use rules. Additionally, in light of comments that the current policy could be interpreted as claiming University ownership over all files and emails on the network, the policy should be revised to correct this misunderstanding. The current policy is also too broad in defining the circumstances in which the University could review or access files on its network. This broad language is not consistent with the actual practices of the University, which are significantly more restrictive regarding when or how such files could be accessed. The policy should be revised to more clearly define the circumstances in which the University accesses, reviews, or discloses files on its network. The revisions should protect the privacy and academic freedom of students, faculty, and staff, while also maintaining the University’s ability to ensure network security, campus safety, and compliance with legal and regulatory obligations that do not rise to the level of a subpoena. Information Technology and Services and the Office of University Counsel will lead the efforts to revise this policy with those obligations in mind.
It is our goal to post drafts of the revised policies for comment by the University community on or before October 31, 2016. We will then aim to publish and implement the final versions prior to the conclusion of the fall 2016 semester.
Academic freedom can only exist if the campus fosters a marketplace of ideas and viewpoints. Students and faculty must have the right to speak and assemble to promote their views. I am committed to ensuring that Syracuse University vigorously protects these rights. Thank you to all of you who have contributed to this critical conversation over the past year. I hope and expect the conversation to continue going forward. Our University will be stronger because of it.
Chancellor Kent Syverud