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Archive for Monday, January 27, 1992

POLICY DEFINES LIMITS TO SPEECH

January 27, 1992

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The University Council will have the next review of a policy outlining the limits of free speech at Kansas University. The policy says the university supports free expression except for speech directed at individuals that is intended to harm or intimidate.

Drafted by the University Senate's Human Relations Committee and approved last week by the University Senate Executive Committee, the policy will be considered by the University Council on Feb. 6. If approved by University Council, it will go to the chancellor's office for approval.

Maggie Childs, chair of the Human Relations Committee, said the policy was developed to "try to define, in general, what should and should not be protected by the First Amendment."

"It's been an issue all over the country," she said. "Schools have been trying to ban all kinds of speech in order to improve minority and ethnic relations."

THE POLICY, forwarded to University Council by the Senate Executive Committee on Friday, states:

"The University of Kansas supports the rights of all groups and individuals to free inquiry and open discourse save for speech that:

"is addressed directly to individuals and meant only to threaten violence, property damage or imminent lawless action

"and that has `no essential part of any exposition of ideas and (is) of such slight social value as a step to truth that any benefit that may be derived from (it) is clearly outweighed by the social interest in order and morality.'"

University Council will consider the policy at 3:30 p.m. Feb. 6.

The policy doesn't carry disciplinary measures for violators, but encourages people who think that they have been harassed or injured to go through KU's standard grievance procedures.

SenEx Chairman Tom Beisecker said the policy was developed in conjuction with a prevailing attitude on university campuses around the country.

"I think it's a concern that is being felt . . . that speech can be used as a weapon against specific people," he said.

HE SAID the statement was not developed in response to specific incidents at KU.

Beisecker stressed that the document was not drafted to discourage the free discussion of ideas on campus, but to question whether "hate" speech is protected under the First Amendment.

"I think there is a very serious question as to whether a hate rally is really free speech," he said.

Chuck Marsh, member of the Human Relations Committee, said that in drafting the statement, the committee wanted to outline a distinction between the encouragement of free speech, and the discouragement of speech intended to harm.

"There are basically two elements to this," he said. "The first is that free speech . . . needs to go as far as it can go. It's powerful and pervasive at this university," he said. "The second is that there are limits."

Human Relations Committee and SenEx members said they did not know how many major institutions currently have or are developing similar policies on free speech.

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