Chancellor’s Commission on Free Speech publishes final report, recommends changing major events policy

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On April 10, the Chancellor’s Commission on Free Speech sent its final report to Chancellor Carol Christ, listing multiple recommendations for Christ regarding steps she could take to avoid violent protests such as the ones that occurred during Milo Yiannopoulos’ February 2017 appearance.

The report, which was sent May 2 to the campus community in an email from Christ, recommended changes to the campus’s major events policy and the designation of the West Crescent lawn as a “free speech zone,” which is a formal area where the major events policy does not apply. Members of the commission ranged from undergraduate and graduate students to faculty and staff members, who were from a range of departments and student organizations.

There were a number of public hearings at which the campus community was allowed to address the free speech commission directly. ASUC Senator Nuha Khalfay, who was one of two ASUC representatives on the commission, recommended that Christ listen to the recordings of the public hearings.

One thing I really hope that she’s done, or does, is read … the transcript of or watch the public hearings, because a lot of students and a lot of staff who work in (the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union) really expressed how this week made them feel,” Khalfay said, referring to the events that took place during “Free Speech Week” in September 2017, which was officially canceled. “Making sure that those narratives are not forgotten is really important.”

Khalfay added that while student voices were prominent on the commission, it was difficult to attend meetings because they were consistently held in the morning, which is when most classes take place. Another commission member, campus graduate student Mariel Goddu, noted that she felt proud of the students’ contributions to the commission and said in an email that students made many recommendations, asked many questions and occasionally gave statements.

Goddu said in the email that she expects the addition of the West Crescent lawn as a free speech zone to be a smooth transition. The report called for either simply adding West Crescent as a third free speech zone or changing the second free speech zone from Lower Sproul Plaza to West Crescent — both scenarios are meant to move large crowd gatherings away from student services centered around Upper and Lower Sproul Plaza, the two existing free speech zones.

Another recommendation was changing the major events policy to be more inclusive to all student organization events. In 2017, the major events policy was introduced and implemented on an interim basis, but some student organizations then faced difficulties booking rooms and paying for events.

“The Commission believes it may take two years for the campus to fully assimilate the Major Events Policy. In the meantime, the Commission recommends that, starting in October 2018, the campus make further revisions based on experience and input from the community,” the report reads.

Christ has yet to parse through the report, according to campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof, who said Christ and her leadership team will carefully review the commission’s report.

“Given the importance and complexity of the issues covered by the report, they intend to take the time necessary to carefully review and discuss the commission’s findings and recommendations,” Mogulof said in an email. “As part of her commitment to transparency and engagement, Chancellor Christ will keep the campus community informed about her plans to ensure our University maintains its unwavering support for Free Speech.”

Sakura Cannestra is the executive news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @SakuCannestra.