A revised free speech policy that attempts to balance free speech rights with a safe environment for learning is up for public comment at West Virginia University. Students, faculty and staff are encouraged to review the proposed changes and offer feedback during a two-week public comment period April 2-16.

In the meantime, WVU officials have withdrawn the old policy and will utilize the revised versionwhich they say”is clearly superior to the old one”on an interim basis, pending feedback and further revision.

Among the proposed changes to the more than 30-year old policy include: eliminating free speech zones for small groups of dissenters, expanding the number of free expression areas for larger protests and demonstrations, listing guidelines that suggest the limits of appropriate dissent and defining permitted speech activities and demonstrations.

An ad-hoc free speech committee of WVU s Faculty Senate Executive Committee has been working since last fall to review the current policy and make changes. The subcommittees proposed revisions were presented to the Executive Committee today (April 1).

“Our goal was to protect fundamental free speech rights while ensuring the orderly and safe operation of the University,”said Dr. Robert Griffith, chairman of the free speech committee.”The draft proposal is neither as liberal as some would like, nor as restrictive as others would prefer.”

“The policy is designed to protect free speech rights, not prohibit thembalanced with the need for orderly operation of the University,”said Linda Hausman, legal graduate assistant and member of the free speech committee.

The revised interim policy can be found at http://www.nis.wvu.edu/2002_releases/fspdraft.htm . Links to the site can also be found on the WVU Faculty Senate web page, the WVU Intranet, the WVU Newsroom/NIS web page, the WVU current student web page and the Student MIX . Hard copies can be picked up at Stewart Hall or the office of Student Government/Student Organization Services in the Mountainlair. Comments should be sent via e-mail to Dr. Griffith at rgriffith@hsc.wvu.edu .

Following the comment period, the ad-hoc committee will review the comments, make further revisions and submit the revised draft to the Faculty Senate Executive Committee April 22, according to Griffith. The revised draft will then go to the full Faculty Senate for its endorsement at its meeting May 13.

The Faculty Senate cannot set University policy. It can only make recommendations to the administration, Griffith noted.