University Provost voices support for students, free speech policy to faculty

Monday, September 26, 2016 - 5:25pm

SACUA Chair Bill Schultz and Provost Martha Pollack at a SACUA meeting at the Fleming Administrative Building on Monday.

SACUA Chair Bill Schultz and Provost Martha Pollack at a SACUA meeting at the Fleming Administrative Building on Monday. Buy this photo
Mazie Hyams

 

At the Senate Advisory Committee on Undergraduate Affairs meeting on Monday, University Provost Martha Pollack expressed concern after racist posters were found in University buildings and on campus that morning, while also noting the importance of free speech on campus.

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Though she said she was disappointed with the posters, saying, “I would describe them as white supremacist or racist posters,” Pollack added she supports University policy on free speech regarding whether they can be removed.

“Consistent with our policy for posting, whenever they are on buildings, we can remove them,” Pollack said. “If they are on kiosks, they are protected by free speech, as they should be. Not only do we have a constitutional obligation to allow all speech no matter how heinous, but if you’re going to stand by the First Amendment, you’re going to stand by the First Amendment. But what you have to do then is loudly make known your abhorrence of this.”

Kisoks refer to areas where posters can be hung, such as the posting wall in Mason Hall. 

Pollack also said she worries about younger students who have only been on campus for a few weeks.

“I would always be concerned, but I’m particularly concerned because it is the start of the new academic year, we have young students here, very young, away from home for the first time,” she said.

Silke-Maria Weineck, chair of the Department of Comparative Literature and SACUA member, suggested creating SACUA-sponsored posters to potentially cover the inappropriate posters as a solution that would not infringe on free speech.

Members of SACUA also discussed releasing a statement in response to these remarks; but, not all members were in agreement about what type of statement should be released.

Tom Schneider, director of the Faculty Senate Office, said he was uncertain about releasing the statement or creating posters, especially depending on whether or not University faculty were emailed ahead of time.

“I’m hesitant to do that for every posting of an unsavory character,” Schneider said.

Pollack tied the incident to the upcoming release of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion strategic plan on Oct. 6, a University-wide effort a year in the making which aims to increase campus diversity and climate.

In addition to discussing campus climate, Pollack also touched on a number of strategies to maintain sustainability efforts already present on campus, which included expanding on the current School of Natural Resources and Environment.

“I think by and large this is going to be a way of the University putting its stake in the ground and saying yes, we can be a leader in this field and we can be a leader in a way that many other universities can’t be, precisely because of our breadth,” Pollack said.

Shortly after Pollack left the meeting, the group went into executive session, which press is barred from attending.