No More “Free Speech Zone”

Felicia Maxa, Staff writer

On Tuesday, Sept. 19, the Student Activities Office held its first free speech forum of the fall 2006 semester to introduce a new free speech proposal.

The proposal, arranged by the Free Speech Taskforce and headed by both administrators and students, aims to better serve students’ First Amendment rights to free speech on campus.

The goal of this forum was to share the information that has been written into the proposal and to also get students’ input, ideas and concerns prior to submitting it.

Six of the eight committee members, including Dean of Students Michael Kelly, Director of Student Activities Sharron Evans, Joe Hertel, student and writer for the Independent, Director of the Student Union Felicia Keelen, Dr. Daniela Truty, Professor in Education Leadership and Development, and former Student Government Association (SGA) President Evelyn Nazario-Rose were present for the forum, each having spoken for a short time to explain differences between the new proposal and the current free speech policy.

The changes to the policy that concern students the most are those that pertain to the “free speech zone.” Currently, the free speech zone is located in Village Square and outside the buildings on the main campus, the northernmost section of the parking lot at Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies (CCICS), and outside the building at El Centro.

Additionally, the changes will minimize the use of ambiguous language in the current policy. The new proposal effectively uses definitions that are absent in the current policy, distinguishing between “university affiliates” (students, faculty, and staff), “guests” (invited to the university by an affiliate), and non-affiliates (those not in the groups of affiliate or guest).

The proposal includes the elimination of the current “free speech zone” to allow free speech everywhere except hallways, stairwells, and classrooms. The proposal will allow affiliates of NEIU to sign up at the information center desk on the same day for demonstrations or distribution of materials, while making non-affiliates register no less than four weeks in advance to do the same.

The rewrite also makes university administration responsible for the notification of demonstration activities through campus postings, though locations have yet to be announced.

The task force listened to the comments made by the students who were in attendance and will be taking a final look at their proposal. Administrative Legal Liason Jeffrey Brown will review the proposal prior to its submission to Vice President of Student Affairs Melvin Terrell, which is projected for Oct. 1.