Free Speech

Barriers:

In the past year and a half, a number of events have brought student speech rights to the forefront of campus discussion. After well-known and publicized controversies with a number of student groups and gatherings both on campus and across the country, many Hoyas are concerned about their rights to freely speak and express themselves becoming stifled both by the University and through the actions of some of their peers. While the Georgetown’s policies are generally good, the University’s track record on enforcement has a lot of room for improvement. The Center for Student Engagement does not adequately engage students to address free speech issues at times. The Office of the Free Speech Advocate has too narrow a mission to effectively deal with speech complains. Elements of a censorship culture and hostile climate for ideological debate also hinder student dialogue on campus. Activist efforts on campus also sometimes come into conflict or are hindered by free speech policy.

Policies:

  • Assert tabling as a form of protected free speech and advocate for the expansion of tabling areas on campus, particularly around Healy Circle.
  • Explore transparency and accountability reforms to ensure that the University’s free speech policy is properly enforced, including:
    • Increasing student access to GUPD reports in cases where the policy is invoked.
    • More effectively training GUPD officers on students’ speech rights.
    • Establishing a point person in the Center for Student Engagement for free speech.
  • Ensure that student groups are allowed to bring speakers to campus regardless of their beliefs, and that protest areas be designated and security provided for controversial events when requested.
  • Clearly publicize rules pertaining to tabling, protesting, and other free speech and expression concerns by creating dedicated page on GUSA’s website and launching a campus-wide information campaign.
  • Communicate and engage directly with students and student groups by hosting focused free speech workshops and creating a clearly accessible free speech email account for time-sensitive questions.
  • Support the rights of campus media to report on on-campus events or gatherings.
  • Work to support the free exchange of ideas on campus by promoting engagement between different students, student groups, and campus media, and by affirming the necessity of intellectual diversity to a successful university environment.

Bridges:

In order to strengthen free speech advocacy work on campus, we will transition the Office of the Free Speech Advocate’s case work responsibilities to the direct jurisdiction of the SAO and consolidate free speech advocacy efforts under a broad and inclusive GUSA free speech team. This team will promote respectful dialogue, support the rights of student groups to bring speakers of diverse ideological beliefs to campus, and push to better communicate and publicize student free speech rights through the policies described above.