SIU to answer free-speech complaint by Monday

January 8, 2009

Southern Illinois University Carbondale officials will respond to the organization challenging the university’s free-speech policies by Monday.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education along with local affiliates of the National Association of Scholars and the American Civil Liberties Union issued a letter to the Chancellor Samuel Goldman last month expressing concerns about the campus’ "free-speech zones."

"The university is not clear where it stands," said Jonathon Bean, an SIUC history professor and president of the Illinois Association of Scholars. "They have a designated free-speech area and they say you can do it (protest) outside (of the zone) – except in the student handbook, where they say you can’t do it outside the zone."

A policy titled "Demonstrations: Regulations and Procedures" was adopted by the SIU Board of Trustees in 2004, but Bean said parts of that document conflict with the student handbook.

The 2004 document names two free-speech zones, one near Anthony Hall and the other outside Morris Library, both high-traffic areas of campus.

The document also states "Individuals, organizations, and groups of persons seeking to engage in noncommercial free expression on property owned and/or controlled by the University may do so in accordance with the Standards of Respect and Civility in the University Learning Community."

The standards of respect and civility set what Bean called "common sense guidelines" for protesting including limiting proximity to classroom buildings, prohibiting unlawful activities and not interfering with highway traffic.

Bean said he personally believes these guidelines should govern the entire campus and that the free-speech zones should be eliminated completely.

"Abolish the zones and all will be well," he said.

University spokesman Rod Sievers said the university would make its response public on Monday after it had been delivered to representatives of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

Schools: Southern Illinois University at Carbondale Cases: Southern Illinois University at Carbondale: Free Speech Crisis Over Unconstitutional Policies