Email from Dixie State University President Richard B. Williams to the DSU Community

By May 5, 2015

From: “President Williams” <williams@dixie.edu>
Date: May 4, 2015 4:29 PM
Subject: Changes to DSU Speech Policies

Dear Students, Staff, and University Community Members:

As you may be aware, three students filed a lawsuit against Dixie State in March, and although I am troubled that these students would not bring their concerns to me before seeking such drastic measures, it has brought to our attention the need to update and revise some of our University policies. As we work toward writing an updated, comprehensive Free Speech policy, the administration is mindful of Dixie State’s mission, which is to be “a teaching institution that strives to enrich its community and the lives of its students by promoting a culture of learning, values, and community.” Given the nature of academic inquiry, only an open, robust and critical environment for speech will support the quest for knowledge and understanding. To that end, Dixie State University is a campus of academic freedom, with the right to inquire broadly and to question, and where even unpopular answers, seemingly absurd ideas, and unconventional thought are not only permitted, but even encouraged.  The United States Supreme Court itself has noted the unique role public universities play in our country, and the special importance of the First Amendment on college campuses:  “We have long recognized that, given the important purpose of public education and the expansive freedoms of speech and thought associated with the university environment, universities occupy a special niche in our constitutional tradition.” Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306, 329(2003).

At the same time, universities are communities that must balance the requirements of free speech with issues of civility, respect, and human dignity.  Public universities are part of the larger community, which has its own, sometimes competing, set of values.  While well intentioned, policies and regulations that attempt to reflect community values and to promote civility can collide with the First Amendment.

Our goal in creating a comprehensive Free Speech policy is to properly balance the interest in promoting civility and community values with the First Amendment rights of Dixie State’s students, faculty and staff.  As we work toward putting comprehensive Free Speech policies in place, Dixie State is placing a moratorium on a number of current policies and practices relating to speech.  The following policies will not be enforced:

  • Policies relating to the posting of materials on campus bulletin boards, including residence halls
  • Policies that require students to obtain approval from administrators before holding speech events
  • Policies that require events to be held in “free-speech zones”

During this period before new policies are adopted, some speech policies will remain in effect.  The following policies will continue in force:

  • All flyers, papers, or materials posted on campus must be date-stamped and must be taken down after 15 days. If materials are not date-stamped or are not taken down within 15 days, University officials may remove them
  • No flyers, papers, or materials may be posted on windows, doors, buildings, or trees

Thank you for your cooperation as we work toward making Dixie State University a place where the free exchange of ideas is protected and fostered.

Sincerely,

Richard B. Williams

President

Schools: Dixie State University Cases: Dixie State University – Stand Up For Speech Lawsuit