Free Speech Working Group Charge, Membership Announced

During last month’s University Senate meeting, Chancellor Kent Syverud urged the campus community to consider how the University can promote free speech—including the provocative, uncomfortable and controversial—while maintaining a respectful learning environment. As a follow up to those remarks, Chancellor Syverud today announced the members of the newly formed Free Speech Working Group, as well as the group’s charge.

“Each of our faculty members—and each of our students—needs in the pursuit of knowledge to be able to say things and write things that can be troubling, provocative and at times makes many of the rest of us profoundly uncomfortable. Our students and faculty need to be protected in doing this from retribution except in very limited circumstances,” Chancellor Syverud said in remarks to the University Senate Sept. 18. “If we really want to protect our faculty and students in their free speech and in their pursuit of knowledge, we cannot silence people who express uncomfortable views.”

The Free Speech Working Group is charged with reviewing policies governing free speech and civil discourse at the University and suggesting revisions to further enhance a culture of open dialogue and diversity of thought on campus. It will be co-chaired by Steven Bennett, senior vice president for academic operations, and Amy Falkner, interim dean of the Newhouse School. The members of the working group are:

  • David Edelstein, Board of Trustees representative
  • Mackenzie Ess, graduate student representative
  • Roy Gutterman, director of the Tully Center for Free Speech and associate professor of magazine, news and digital journalism in the Newhouse School
  • Lujane Juburi, undergraduate student representative
  • Natalie Maier, Student Bar Association representative
  • Bobby Maldonaldo, chief of the Department of Public Safety
  • Gladys McCormick, associate professor of history in the Maxwell School
  • Reinaldo Pascual, Board of Trustees representative
  • Richard Thompson, Board of Trustees representative
  • Marianne Thomson, associate vice president for student experience and dean of students

Ex officio members of the working group include Dolan Evanovich, senior vice president for enrollment and the student experience; Dan French, senior vice president and general counsel; and Candace Campbell Jackson, senior vice president and chief of staff.

As part of Chancellor Syverud’s charge, the group’s review of policies should assure the right to free speech and provide parameters to help secure that right. It should also address the behaviors that provide barriers to a person’s access to free speech and outline how the University should respond to such an incident or behavior. The group is expected to deliver interim recommendations to Chancellor Syverud in January 2020 and final recommendations by May 2020.