The University of Missouri campus in Columbia got a peek Thursday at new proposed rules on protest and assembly that authors say are designed for safety and not to infringe on free speech.
One rule would prevent students from sleeping in tents on campus grounds.
The university’s Ad Hoc Joint Committee on Protests, Public Spaces, Free Speech & the Press has been working on the draft policy since January.
The proposed rules came out of a review of existing campus polices after the Concerned Student 1950 group erected a tent city on the university’s Carnahan Quadrangle last November.
Concerned Student, a predominantly black student group, spent a week in tents to protest racial oppression on the campus and support a student on a hunger strike who was also protesting oppression. It led to the threat of a boycott by the football team and the eventual resignations of the university system president and the chancellor of the Columbia campus.
The encampment was briefly home to dozens of students, including hunger striker Jonathan Butler. In the aftermath, the university came under intense criticism from Missouri lawmakers and alumni who said the protest damaged the school’s reputation.
The rethinking of protest policies began with a review by the Ad Hoc committee formed in January by interim Chancellor Hank Foley and Faculty Council chairman Ben Trachtenberg.
The recommended rules first state that “the University affirms the First Amendment guarantees of freedom of expression and the right to assemble peaceably as essential fundamental principles in our University community.”
The policy sets limits on how and when university facilities and grounds can be used for demonstrations, protests, rallies, vigils and other gatherings.
Such events would be allowed as long as they remain “orderly” and do not disrupt the normal flow of campus operations or interfere with spaces where educational, health or financial records are stored, according to the policy.
The policy includes a number of other limits on behavior during an assembly and said that MU police would be called on to deal with violations.
The university planned a series of campus forums in the coming school year to discuss the recommendations.