After months of work, the University of Chicago’s Committee on University Discipline for Disruptive Conduct chaired by Professor Randal Picker has released its report of suggestions that the University take to further its standing as the leader in free expression in the country.

This report builds off of two recent reports issued by the University in recent years. This entire letter is well worth a read, but key components of its recommendations include:

“We recommend that the University create free-speech deans-on-call with special training to deal with disruptive conduct, and we further recommend an advance-authorization structure to enable, if necessary, removal of disruptive individual(s) from events. The current rules, which often force deans-on-call to try to contact other administrators at the University in the middle of a free-speech disruption, are simply unworkable.”

“The Committee recommends new, targeted measures for students and recognized student organizations building on existing student-centered programs and resources. Because of its role in shaping the co-curricular experience at the University, the Committee suggests that the Office of Campus and Student Life (CSL) serve a coordinating function in the development and implementation of educational and training efforts in collaboration with the area deans of students. To every extent possible, faculty should be invited to provide advice and participate in the development and execution of these various efforts.”

“This is the third University report in the last four years addressing the topic of freedom of expression at the University. That fact reflects both the importance of these issues and the genuine difficulties associated with creating and maintaining a space open to speech, including speech in protest of other speech. The Committee agreed to this undertaking precisely because of its importance to the University, and we firmly hope and believe that the recommendations set forth in this report will help to accomplish that end.”

UChicago Provost Daniel Diermeier emailed the entire community to announce its release.

The report is located here, and the text of the email follows:

A faculty committee was established in May 2016 to review and make recommendations about procedures for student disciplinary matters involving disruptive conduct, particularly interference with freedom of expression, inquiry and debate. The committee, chaired by Randal C.Picker, the James Parker Hall Distinguished Service Professor of Law, held discussions with students and faculty across campus, taking into consideration recent faculty reports and actions on free expression. They were asked to review, and recommend revisions to, the University-wide disciplinary procedures for disruptive conduct. Their charge also included providing advice on educational programming for students on the rights and responsibilities conferred by freedom of expression.

The committee has now completed its work and submitted its report and recommendations. Notably, the report includes as an appendix a proposed set of University-wide disciplinary procedures for disruptive conduct.  These procedures, informed by the substantial student and faculty input received, seek to improve upon an existing University-wide disciplinary structure for disruptive conduct instituted in 1970 that is both complex and opaque for all involved. The procedures set forth in the report will be brought to the Council for review over the course of the next two months.

As the committee notes, the fact that this is the third faculty report in the last four years on the general topic of freedom of expression indicates the subject’s deep significance for the University.

I am deeply grateful for the efforts of the members of the committee, and for their productive work on this important topic.

 

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