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Speech policies ensure campus safety, promote expression

Recent and upcoming events have brought about campuswide discussions about exercising free speech at the University of Oregon. While instances are assessed on a case-by-case basis, policies and guidelines are in place in place to ensure campus safety while embracing such exercises as an important value of the institution.

The freedom of inquiry and free speech policy establishes the university’s commitment to free speech as a cornerstone of an academic institution and a central tenet of a free society. The university supports free speech regardless of the point of view being expressed.

According to the policy, interfering in free expression out of a belief that an opinion is offensive or “just plain wrong” cannot be grounds for its suppression. The policy also calls on “all members of our community to respect others and to promote a culture of mutual inquiry.”

Free speech guidelines on the UO Safety and Risk Services website help protect free speech, while ensuring that opposing views may also be expressed. According to the website, “The university strives to balance the right to dissent with the right to be heard, the right to speak one’s mind with the right to listen.”

Demonstrations and presentations of free speech can occur on campus as scheduled events, community-organized events that pass through campus or use campus locations as gathering points, or grass-root rallies of like-minded people congregating in one place.

Scheduled events are planned in advance to reserve building or outdoor space and can be arranged by both university-affiliated organizations or nonuniversity entities. Regardless of UO affiliation, the facilities scheduling policy applies to events scheduled on campus.

While the general intended use of a facility for an event must be disclosed, the university upholds the principles of its free speech policy by using a content-neutral approach to scheduling events. It is stated in the facilities scheduling policy that “use of Facilities does not in any way imply that the university endorses, encourages, or approves the purposes, conduct, or messages of the users.”