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Update & Next steps: Free Speech Commission’s recommendations

September 10, 2018

Dear campus community,

I write to update the campus community on our response to last year’s Free Speech Commission report and recommendations. I want to thank again Co-Chairs Dean Prudence Carter and Professor R. Jay Wallace and the students, staff, and faculty who generously served on the Commission for their thoughtful work on this complex issue. I also want to thank everyone from the community who provided comments; your perspectives have shaped the report in important ways.

Here is a summary of the changes we will make in response to the Commission’s recommendations.

  • We will improve communication with students, staff, and faculty before and during potentially disruptive events, seeking to communicate early, more often, and more thoroughly. We will give advice to supervisors on accommodations that can and should be provided to staff (including student staff) if and when disruption is anticipated, and offer guidance to faculty and graduate student instructors on how best to respond to accommodation requests from their students.

  • We will promote more opportunities for constructive debate inside and outside the classroom, supporting campus units, departments, and student organizations which seek to host events that encourage intellectual discourse across political and ideological divides.

  • On a provisional basis, as a case study, we will be adding the West Crescent area of campus as another location for large events that would not be subject to the Major Events Policy. Once this change is in place, events using amplified sound can be scheduled for the West Crescent on very short notice, and the campus will not move events from that location based upon potential disruption.

  • On a provisional basis, we will be making the utilization of Lower Sproul for events subject to the provisions of our Major Events Policy, given its proximity to so many buildings that house student-facing services and programs. While most current uses of Lower Sproul Plaza would not be affected, the campus will be able to relocate large potentially disruptive events from Lower Sproul to a more suitable location.

  • In order to implement the changes in the West Crescent and Lower Sproul areas, we are reviewing the campus policies, regulations, and procedures that will need to be revised in order to implement the Commission’s recommendations.

  • I have asked our Chief of Police, Margo Bennett, and Vice Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion, Oscar Dubon, to work in close concert to determine how best to implement the Commission’s recommendations in regard to the presence and operations of our police department during potentially disruptive events.  In the process of doing this, Chief Bennett and Vice Chancellor Dubon plan to meet directly with members of communities who have expressed concern about policing issues on campus. In addition, UCPD has already increased its training for external police personnel we bring to campus when additional help is needed.

  • While we appreciate the Commission’s recommendations to reconsider the steps required of Registered Student Organizations who seek to host major events, we are mindful of the potential costs of any such changes.  Thousands of events planned by RSOs take place without incident every year; we don’t want to impose unnecessary hurdles for these events. Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, Steve Sutton, will be taking the lead on gathering more feedback and data from RSOs on this recommendation.

Thank you again for your engagement and advice as we work to best align our commitment to free speech with our principles of community.


Carol Christ
Paul Alivisatos
Executive Vice Chancellor, Provost
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