Photo Courtesy of Northwestern’s Political Science Department
On Thursday, Feb. 8, representatives from The Coalition for Free Speech and Unusual Noise and Vice President for Student Affairs Patricia Telles-Irivin met for the second time to make more detailed appeals on changing Northwestern’s protest policy.
The Coalition is a movement on campus represented by various student leaders aiming to change Northwestern’s current protest policy. Its organizers, hailing mainly from ASG’s senate leadership, are working with faculty to enact this change, and last quarter they sent out a Communal Statement, which contained a full list of their demands.
Representatives of The Coalition, including ASG’s Vice President of Student Activities and Resources Alecia Richards and ASG President Nehaarika Mulukutla, brought their concerns to multiple northwestern faculty in charge of the protest policy and any amendments that may change the policy in the future. Joining Vice President Telles-Irvin were Assistant Vice President and Dean of Students Todd Adams, Executive Director of Campus Life Brett Turner, and Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Student Conduct Lucas Christain.
The meeting began with an overview of the list of demands that The Coalition had made at the previous meeting in Fall Quarter. The demands listed are as follows: move protest registration to the Office of Campus Life, change the various uses of vague language found in the policy that has caused confusion over punishment and wrongful protest, review the protest policy every year instead of every three years with a student review, and clarify some of the rules set out by the policy.
The faculty agreed to most of the demands made by The Coalition, however they noted that they don’t necessarily have the final say. A special committee made up of executive faculty members, or Senate Administrators will be the ones to have final review and implementation of the policy. When asked who makes up these seats, the faculty answered that it is usually decided amongst the faculty themselves.
One demand that the faculty had trouble with was changing registration of an individual for a protest to registering a group, so that the student wouldn’t receive direct punishment or a penalty if things went awry in the protest. The faculty began by stating that individuals or groups don’t “register” protests at all, but rather the faculty come into contact with whomever wants to stage a protest at a school and they collectively meet before the protest occurs, to ensure safety.
“I’d rather talk through the details instead of having just one sentence (registration),” said Brett Turner. Lucas Christain harped on that point and talked to the students about their primary concern for this demand, which was student penalties for protest.
Faculty had assured representatives of The Coalition that a student would never be held personally liable for improper action occuring at a protest that was outside of their control. The faculty said that if something went wrong, the context would have to be evaluated in order to determine if the organizers of the protest were involved in its escalation.
The administration present at the meeting also wanted to note that a protest hasn’t been denied within their terms as hired employees at Northwestern, and that the University wants to work with groups planning a protest so that it can be a safe and legal environment for all. They emphasized how if, say, a march were to exit campus and roll onto the streets of Evanston, Northwestern University policy rules no longer apply and the protesters are now subjected to Evanston’s protest policy, which in some instances is harsher.
“The spacing issue is really with the fire marshal,” Dean Todd Adams said. “But on university grounds, it hasn’t been an issue. It’s a problem when a doorway or hallway gets blocked… We also collaborate with the City of Evanston for when movements go off campus.”
Representatives of The Coalition and the faculty agreed to meet again around the end of February to finalize the new protest policy and to give the representatives a chance to vet the new proposed policy presented by the administration. This new policy is expected to make nearly all the changes set by the demands of The Coalition, save the demand about registration.