Say What? Examining Freedom of Speech at App State
In March, our campus came together and took on the challenge to hold deep and important conversations around the First Amendment and freedom of expression. Appalachian proactively explored issues of free speech, academic freedom and respect for differences of opinion and beliefs faced by college campuses across the nation. The conversations we had were rich and interesting, and we are continuing to be proactive over the summer months.
During the spring events and after, questions around free speech zones on campus indicated we might need to revisit our policies around “free speech zones” and our facility policies. In fact, there are no free speech zones, as all of our campus grounds are open to free speech. In some of our most popular gathering areas where spaces are often in demand, we encourage people to schedule their events. And, there are restrictions in place to ensure we do not disrupt our university’s core mission of education; to ensure safety; and to take into account practical matters such as demands on staff, city noise ordinances and the ability to sell goods and services to our students.
That said, we acknowledge some of the language in our facility policy is subject to interpretation and could be confusing. We are examining our facility use policies with a goal of making them easier to understand and of achieving green light status with FIRE (The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.)
Faculty Senate Chair and Department of Communication Professor Paul Gates said in a talk during the March events, “Universities should be the home of ideas.” I agree completely. I welcome your thoughts.
Sheri Everts, Chancellor