Commission on Free Speech Charge Letter

The following message was sent to the members of the Commission on Free Speech:

Dear colleague,

I write to formally invite you to serve on a Commission to analyze events featuring external speakers in order to recommend changes in policy and procedures that might make similar events less disruptive and expensive for the campus, and to advise how we might best align our responsibility for protecting free speech with our values as a community.

The introduction to the Berkeley Campus Regulations Implementing University Policies states that “In order to carry on its work of teaching, research, and public service, the University has an obligation to maintain conditions under which the work of the University can go forward freely, in accordance with the highest standards of quality, institutional integrity, and freedom of expression, with full recognition by all concerned of the rights and privileges, as well as responsibilities, of those who comprise the University community.”

The statement enshrines freedom of expression while highlighting the campus’s “obligation to maintain conditions under which the work of the University can go forward freely.” Recent experience has shown that major events hosted by non-departmental users may place those values in conflict. We charge this commission with developing a set of recommendations that preserve the campus’s firm commitment to free expression while reducing the likelihood of such expression disrupting the mission of education, research, and public service. Even while we work on healing the campus from the effects of the difficult climate that prevailed this fall, we need to ask how we can do better.

We ask the Commission to solicit broad community input through hearings, email, and any other avenues it chooses.

Following are some of the questions we ask the Commission to consider:

  • Should the campus make any changes in the Interim Major Events Policy? We ask the commission to provide input to the policy committee that drafted the interim policy, chaired by Interim Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Steve Sutton.

  • Should policies regarding the uses of Lower and Upper Sproul (including the Savio Steps) by registered student organizations (RSO’s) and non-affiliate members of the public be revisited?

  • Should RSO’s be able to reserve multiple consecutive days on Lower and Upper Sproul?

  • What is the right size for an RSO? (i.e., how many members should be required to start an organization and keep it in active status?)

  • How can the campus minimize repeated disruption of the same area of campus by major events?

  • Does the campus need to develop a centralized reservation system for all of its facilities?

  • Does rental of facilities by the nonaffiliated public come at the expense of campus use, and do these rentals generate enough income to make them worth continuing to support? Should fewer facilities be available for public rental?

  • How can we contain the costs of security for major events?

  • Should students be able to serve as observers (as staff and faculty can now serve) at major events?

  • How can we best protect the right of non-violent protest?

  • How can we make the police a less intimidating presence at major events without compromising security?

The commission will also work in conjunction with the Compliance & Enterprise Risk Committee (CERC) to review the following policies and regulations, along with any other policies and regulations that may be relevant, and recommend to CERC changes that would apply to all non-departmental users of campus space equally and in a content-neutral manner:

  1. LEAD Center Registered Student Organization recognition and sponsorship requirements(owned by Student Affairs)

  2. Berkeley Campus Regulations Implementing University Policies, particularly General Definitions sections (d), (e), and (f); Section 121 (Formation of Campus Organizations); Sections 211-251 (Regulations Concerning the Use of University Facilities and Services); and Sections 311-368 (Regulations Concerning the Time, Place, and Manner of Public Expression) (owned by Student Affairs)

  3. Interim policy on Major Events Hosted by Non-Departmental Users (owned by Student Affairs and Risk Services)

The commission will be Co-Chaired by Prudence Carter, Dean of the Graduate School of Education, and Jay Wallace, Professor of Philosophy. By design, membership will include ⅓ faculty, ⅓ students, and ⅓ staff/administrators, appointed by the Chancellor.

The Commission will develop its recommendations in consultation with stakeholders to include but not be limited to:

  • Academic Senate

  • Student organizations, including multicultural student organizations

  • Student Learning Center

  • Student athletes

  • City of Berkeley

  • Downtown Business Association

  • Telegraph Business Improvement District

  • Board of Visitors

  • Staff organizations, including the Chancellor’s Staff Advisory Committee

  • Campus event managers, including Classroom Scheduling, Academic and Space Planning

  • Residential & Student Service Programs

  • Alumni

In accomplishing this charge, the commission will be mindful of, but not bound by, the following timeline for campus review of the Interim Events Policy:

  • October 7: Interim policy changes distributed for public comment

  • October 31: Close of public comment period

  • November 15: Proposed policy changes submitted to the Compliance and Enterprise Risk Committee (CERC) Policy Subcommittee for review

  • November 30: Proposed policy changes submitted to full CERC for review and approval

  • December 15: Proposed policy changes submitted to Chancellor for approval

  • January 9, 2018: Policy changes implemented

While discussion within the Commission can inform the review process for the interim policy, either through formal recommendation of the Commission or through contributions to the policy review process by Commission members, the charge of the Commission is broader than the review of the interim policy, and the Commission’s work can continue beyond the policy revision timeline. I would like an interim report on the Commission’s work and recommendations by April of 2018.

Please confirm your commitment to serve on this Commission as soon as possible via email to Anne Jones, Chief of Staff to the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs. Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely yours,

Carol Christ