Brandeis ‘Hoot’ Continues Series on Free Speech

March 21, 2008

In the third article of his series on First Amendment rights, Brandeis University student journalist Pat Garofolo discusses the freedom to peacefully assemble on campus. Garofolo has previously written articles for The Hoot, one of Brandeis’s independent student newspapers, on free expression and satire. Today, he asks,

What restrictions, if any, apply to students who are protesting while on campus? What is their responsibility for maintaining a safe learning environment, despite the naturally disruptive nature of a protest? Is this responsibility lessened by a legitimate grievance?

The Brandeis Rights & Responsibilities handbook cites that

"the University community is one of inquiry and persuasion. A member of the University community may protest, rally or demonstrate provided such protest or demonstration does not disrupt University operations or obstruct physical movement to, from, or within any place on the campus."

However, the next section, on its face, could be read as a restriction: "The Dean of Student Life or the dean’s designee must be notified in advance of any planned demonstrations, and may instruct organizers regarding the guidelines for such activity."

Garofolo interviewed several students, faculty and staff members for the article, all of whom were overly optimistic about Brandeis’s handling of free expression issues, even in light of the treatment of Professor Donald Hindley. However, one student, Jason Gray ’10, said that the issue of rights on campus must be sorted out in order to protect students, "no matter who comes through the university administration." The article continues,

This series has examined a number of incidents on campus that involved freedom of speech, and the actions taken by members of the university protecting it and denying it. But what comes next?

[I]f the willingness to discuss [speech issues] is there, maybe the next incident involving speech on campus will not be a missed opportunity, as so many have been in the last four years. Next time, the university could follow the advice of Gray. As he said, "rights should never be shied away from."