Section: News

Senate revises freedom of speech policy

Kenyon’s Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities, which was last revised in 1972, threatened disciplinary action for those who “offend the sensibilities of others.” Campus Senate is working to remove this language because of its potential to restrict freedom of speech on campus.

Last year, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) gave the College’s Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities a “red-light rating” due to this policy, meaning it clearly restricts freedom of speech. FIRE is a private foundation whose mission is to defend individual rights at American colleges and universities.

In response to this rating, the administration asked Campus Senate to rewrite the section this year. Campus Senate adopted the following revised statement, which does not include any explicit mention of freedom of speech, during their Sept. 28 meeting: “Kenyon College is an institution committed to personal and intellectual development. Students will grow as members of our community, and as such must adhere to a series of rules for the maintenance of a positive environment. The college depends on students perpetuating a culture of maturity and respectful behavior. Like the staff and faculty, students are expected to adhere to college policies and regulations that reflect an acceptable standard of conduct. Thus, students are allowed to self-govern and self-regulate, with limits. The following handbook sets forth the specific rights and responsibilities for the students of Kenyon College.”

Campus Senate sent this revised statement in an email to both students and employees. The email received multiple responses before it was passed by the Senate and ratified by President Decatur on Sept. 28.

“We have approved a version … [which] puts us in a place of an accurate reflection of Kenyon and now we can continue to edit and reflect the more specific details of what we want that relationship between student rights and responsibilities to look like,” Ben Douglas ’18, student co-chair of Senate, said.

This statement is not final and is still under revision. A subcommittee of the Senate will continue to consider the language used; the subcommittee will offer its findings to the complete Senate, the student body and Student Council. There is no time frame for this process. President Sean Decatur will have to ratify any changes for the statement to become final.

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