University Clarifies Free Speech Policy

In an effort to expand free speech rights on campus, Georgetown administrators revised the university speech and expression policy Thursday. The revised policy was backed by former GUSA president Nate Tisa (SFS ’14) and devised in coordination with the University’s Speech and Expression Committee.

Administrators sent a survey earlier this year in order to better understand student qualms with the free speech policy. After reviewing the survey’s responses, Georgetown University Student Association and university officials moved forward with clarifications and changes, though a Memorandum of Understanding signed by both Tisa and Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson notes it is “not an entirely comprehensive solution.

The new policy designates the lobby of the Leavey Center, Regents Lawn and the Healey Family Student Center as “public squares” for students to exchange ideas, in addition to the previous free-speech zone in Red Square.

The policy also expedites the process for reserving classrooms via the Registrar’s Office by giving students who attend training sessions early in the year eligibility for “fast-track” reservation.

In addition, the guidelines expand the role of the University’s Speech and Expression Committee, creating an email address so students can send complaints and outlining a process for the committee to overturn misapplications of the policy in coordination with the office of the Vice President for Student Affairs.

Additionally, the policy includes clarifications that permit protests anywhere on campus if no other university policies are violated and allow groups with access to benefits to co-sponsor events with any other group of students. The memorandum indicates that GUSA and Student Affairs are also working to expand tabling areas to the spaces in front of Lauinger Library and Healy Hall.

Reaction from current GUSA executives was positive, though they noted the policy was not conclusive and needed more work.

“This memorandum ensures that a vibrant exchange of ideas can occur at Georgetown,” GUSA President Trevor Tezel (SFS ’15) wrote in a press release. “Even though the policy stops short of defining all of campus as a free-speech zone, we can be confident that restrictions on speech will be minimal.”

“We’re glad that Nate Tisa devoted the last few weeks of his senior year to ensuring this issue was addressed,” GUSA Vice President Omika Jikaria (SFS ’15) said. “We look forward to building awareness among students about the protections that are listed in this policy. While this policy is a good step on the part of the university, more work remains to be done on other policies related to free speech, such as the Access to Benefits policy and Student Organization Standards.”

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