U Senate takes on free speech

The Senate will address concerns about the Four Core Principles document.

by Raj Chaduvula

Though the semester is winding down, debate on free speech at the University of Minnesota rages on. 
On Thursday, the University Senate will convene for a meeting to discuss the Four Core Principles document drafted by law professor Dale Carpenter. The senate will address concerns and remarks brought up over the course of the document’s release. 
The document’s principles comment on the prevention of free speech, protecting offensive language and upholding free speech when it conflicts with other University values. 
Rob Stewart, the Student Senate’s chair, said the document’s attempt to codify the issue of free speech raised eyebrows. 
The Student Senate met the document’s third principle with resistance, Stewart said. The third principle outlines how the University cannot determine who can or cannot regulate speakers based on how much perceived “power” they have. 
Stewart said some members of the Student Senate sided with the statement by the Council of Graduate Students on the issue, citing that the principle seems like an advocacy topic and doesn’t acknowledge the fact that some people have more power than others. 
Colin Campbell, chair of the Faculty Senate and the Faculty Consultative Committee, said the third principle is perceived as one of the more controversial topics based on remarks from across the board.
Campbell, who supports the document, said people seem to be concerned that the University is reinforcing inequality if it doesn’t recognize differences of power.
Students also took issue with the document’s protection of hateful speech, Stewart said. Concerns were expressed over the way it’s defined and how it conflicts with creating a welcoming campus climate, he said. 
“Free speech is an essential part of campus climate,” Carpenter said.
The University has numerous ways of promoting equity and diversity, but suppressing free speech cannot be part of it, Carpenter said. 
The Student Senate questioned the necessity of the Four Core Principles document, Stewart said. Some of the principles are covered by the student code of conduct and parts of the University mission statement, he said. 
Stewart said the FCC released the document without effectively engaging the student body and neglected to acknowledge their roles as stakeholders in the discussion. 
“From the student perspective, that’s frustrating,” Stewart said. 
Campbell said the draft is only the first step to a larger discussion about free speech on campus. 
The document isn’t up for a resolution or amendment, Campbell said. 
“The document is not yet ready [for approval] … and it will only be discussed at the meeting,” Campbell said.