University shares new free speech policies with ASSU

April 24, 2024, 12:53 a.m.

The Undergraduate Senate (UGS) heard from Bernadette Meyler, who chairs the University’s Ad Hoc Committee on Free Speech, about the aims and goals behind newly proposed free speech policies slated to be presented to the Faculty Senate (FacSen) on May 30. 

The committee first delivered an interim report in January and continued to delve into questions about how universities should approach free speech obligations. The committee also suggested policies to strengthen the role of the faculty and preserve academic speech. 

“Stanford is notoriously decentralized, and that sometimes has an effect on how speech policies are implemented in different places on campus,” Meyler said.

Meyler proposed three main pillars to tackle free speech policy at Stanford: mirroring an academic statement released in 1974 and creating two new statements on freedom of expression and institutional restraint. 

In response to Meyler’s proposal, senator Ritwik Tati ’25 questioned the University’s guidelines on distinguishing between hate speech and free speech, based on previous University decisions.

“We want to protect freedom of expression, which can sometimes include hate speech but our freedom of expression policy is designed for different contexts,” Meyler said. 

Stanford falls under the jurisdiction of Title VI and Title IX, which protect discrimination based on race, color, national origin and gender respectively, which is why the committee is trying to take account of those responsibilities and not engage in discrimination against groups, Meyler said. 

UGS co-chair Diego Kagurabadza ’25 raised student concerns over recent crackdowns on student protest at Columbia and Yale, asking if Meyler’s committee will implement policies to protect student activists or set administrative guidelines to handle disruptive speech.

According to Meyler, the committee has been concerned about “vague policies or …vague language” that can lead to “unpredictable or disparate” enforcement across “different times or groups.” The committee’s recommendations hope to provide an explicit framework that ensures uniform enforcement. 

Community member Sebastian Strawser ’26, who a Daily opinions writer, called for more student contribution to the committee as students’ voices are not currently included, due to its nature as a faculty committee. 

In response to Strawser, Meyler said that the committee considered several perspectives and spoke to many students about experiences with different offices and processes. She said they will continue to welcome discussions from student communities as policies are developed. 

The UGS also debated a new bill to amend On Call Café funding resources and student organization status as it starts to make a profit. Senator Carmen Kang ’26 also published the first round of student discounts, which included restaurants on University Avenue — like 15% off from the boba shop T4 and discounts from nearby nail salons and boutiques. 

The Stanford Daily hosts debate between Senate candidates tomorrow at the Daily building at 7 p.m. The ASSU election starts April 25.

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