College of DuPage to revise speech censoring policies

Following a recent incident in which a campus police officer threatened to “lock up” several students for collecting petition signatures on campus, College of DuPage has announced that it will revise its policies.

As originally reported by Campus Reform earlier this month, COD student Joseph Enders and another student were collecting signatures for a petition urging the school to improve its free speech protections when they were confronted by a campus police officer, who informed them that they needed a permit in order to solicit opinions on campus and threatened them with arrest when they questioned him about the policy.

At a special meeting of the college’s Board of Trustees Monday night, President Joseph Collins obliquely referenced that incident while outlining efforts that COD will undertake in order to improve its speech protections, and Board Chairman Kathy Hamilton made an emotional commitment to ensuring that the new policies reflect a sincere commitment to First Amendment principles.

Enders recounted his experience in a statement during the public comment period of Monday’s Board meeting, flatly stating that he and others “were denied our First Amendment rights on campus,” and thanking several trustees for supporting his efforts to overturn the policies responsible.

“I’m here tonight not to hold the Board accountable for these censorship policies, nor to cause problems on campus,” Enders asserted. “Rather, I stand here asking the Board to work hand-in-hand with the student body to revise these … censorship policies.”

Claiming that his only goal is “to make College of DuPage a free and open-minded campus welcoming all perspectives,” Enders concluded with an appeal “that the Board be willing to create this environment, and forever be remembered as the ones who brought free speech back to the College of DuPage.”

The Board then moved on to consideration of pressing budget issues left over from the administration of ousted former President Robert Breuder before returning, a bit more than two hours later, to current President Collins for a report on COD’s nascent efforts to revise its speech policies.

“Based on recent questions regarding free speech at the college, I am engaging COD’s shared governance structure to review the college’s guidelines in light of the latest court holdings and best practices for public institutions of higher learning,” Collins told the trustees. “Our target is to ensure that our procedures uphold the rights of all, and reflect the atmosphere of an institution dedicated to teaching and learning.”

Although details of the revisions have yet to be determined, Collins said they would draw on input from all elements of the school community, and promised to keep the Board apprised of his progress.

“Without question, the First Amendment applies to every citizen, including students, professors, adjuncts, staff, trustees, and members of the public,” he asserted. “Colleges and universities are by their very nature committed to the free and open expression of ideas.”

Board Chairman Hamilton revisited the free speech issue at the conclusion of the meeting, citing the sacrifices made by Staff Sgt. Robert Miller, a Medal of Honor recipient who grew up near the college and perished in 2008 while protecting comrades during a firefight in Afghanistan.

“COD is an academic institution that benefits from debates and diverse views,” Hamilton said. “Sgt. Miller joined the Army to defend the First Amendment, he fought in Afghanistan for the First Amendment, and he sacrificed himself so that we could enjoy the right to speak, assemble, worship, read a free press, and seek redress of grievances.”

Noting that Sgt. Miller’s commitment “inspires us,” she pledged: “You will see a First Amendment procedure here that reflects his inspiration.”

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