Speech resolution advances

Faculty members approved a draft of a resolution taking a stance on campus free speech.

by Brian Edwards

In response to recent debates on college campuses, faculty members at the University of Minnesota recently approved a preliminary version of a resolution to protect free speech at the school.
Members of the Faculty Consultative Committee voted 7-2 earlier this month to approve the current version of the document so different groups around the University can provide comments. Though the majority of faculty members were supportive of putting the document out for discussion in its current form, some had concerns about its specific language.
The document mentions preventing the regulation of speech, protecting offensive language and preserving free speech when it is in conflict with other University values.
“I think we have a responsibility to say something,” said Dale Carpenter, a law professor and author of the resolution. “I think it will more affirmatively start the discussion.”
Much of the monthslong debate around the document  centered on language that puts free speech above other values at the University. 
The group originally moved to approve the document as it was but tentatively decided to seek the community feedback for the resolution.
“I think communities don’t appreciate when something is put out there as absolute,” said Heidi Barajas, executive director of the Urban Research and Outreach-Engagement Center, at the meeting.
She stressed the importance of receiving opinions from the community and said sometimes groups have clashed with the FCC because they didn’t always consult faculty members when passing their own resolutions. 
As the document has circulated, Carpenter said groups from the University and other colleges have given overwhelmingly positive feedback. 
The University’s faculty members join other schools taking a stance on free speech, such as the University of Chicago and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Still, some faculty members questioned the idea of placing uninhibited speech above other University values, such as an inclusive climate.
Jigna Desai, chair and professor in the department of gender, women and sexuality studies, said at the meeting that she was in favor of approving the document to bring it to the larger community but didn’t want to approve the specific language.
At previous meetings, she expressed concern about the ability of underrepresented groups to give their views about issues on campus. 
“I believe in freedom of expression,” Desai said at the meeting. ”But if this is the only paramount thing, then we are leaving out the component of the University’s job to create a campus climate.” 
Currently, the FCC is waiting for feedback from multiple groups around the University. Key groups include the Student Senate, Academic Affairs and Provost office, and President Eric Kaler,  Carpenter said.
“Anybody with interest in it, which I think is the entire University community, [can give feedback],” he said. “I think this is a good debate to have.”