Listening to your feedback on the draft disruptive activity policy

Dear students, faculty and staff:

Last week we published a draft policy on disruptive activity with the goal of ensuring the university’s position is clear, easy to access, and supportive of our mission. We’ve received a robust response to our call for feedback. I’m encouraged by the passion and rigor with which our community has engaged in this process. Thank you for your commitment – we are listening.

Students have protested at the University of Michigan since the early days of its existence. As a university committed to free speech and diversity of perspective, we welcome dissent and the expression of the broadest array of ideas–even those perspectives that could be unpopular, upsetting, or critical of the university.

At the same time, no one is entitled to disrupt the lawful activities or speech of others. Because the university is a public institution, not only are we prohibited from interfering with lawful speech, we are required to intervene when we become aware that others are interfering with or disrupting lawful speech on our campus. Our current Standard Practice Guide 601.01 and the Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities make clear that disrupting speakers and events is not protected speech under the law and is a violation of university policy.

As we have reviewed comments from the community on the new draft policy, we’ve found a broad spectrum of views and several important themes. First, many members of our community want clarity in our policies on protests – specifically as it relates to the university’s right to regulate the time, place and manner of protests to ensure they do not disrupt the university’s operations. Second, people want to ensure the right to protest is carefully balanced with the importance of safety. Third, members of our community are committed to ensuring free speech and expression are upheld fairly and equitably, and they are eager to participate in the shaping of any new policy. Fourth, and importantly, the university needs to take the appropriate time to allow a robust period of engagement so any changes in policy reflect our mission and values.

All of this feedback has been heard and is valued. The university will not rush the development of this new policy; we will ensure all voices have an opportunity to be heard; and we will carefully review all the comments we receive. Our goal is to make policies clearer, ensure key terms are well defined, incorporate pathways for restorative action, and support respectful discussion of divergent viewpoints. We will also consider whether a revision to our long-standing policies and standards of conduct will meet our current needs.

If you haven’t yet offered feedback, we encourage you to submit your perspective before the window closes tomorrow at 11:59 p.m. Please know this will not be your last opportunity to participate. We will be engaging with key stakeholders and subject matter experts in the coming weeks and months.

In the meantime, I ask all of you to continue to respect one another and uphold our commitment to free expression. As our community enters this period of final exams, commencements and other year-end activities, let us come together with shared purpose and understanding.

Thanks again for your invaluable feedback.

Santa J. Ono