Trustees | Freedom of Expression

Free Speech and Ohio Trustees

INSIDE HIGHER ED   |  January 23, 2009 by Quick Takes

Amid criticism from local and national quarters—criticism that Ohio University officials said was premature—a committee of the institution’s Board of Trustees on Thursday substantially revised a draft “statement of expectations” for the board’s own members that had been viewed as potentially gagging dissent and shielding university officials from scrutiny. The draft policy, which the board was reportedly supposed to take up at Thursday’s meeting, called for individual trustees to direct “concerns about university operations” to the university’s president and said board members should “publicly support” decisions once consensus on an issue is reached. The policy came under attack from the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (which said the guidelines would render the trustees “nothing more than potted plants”) and from The Post, Ohio’s student newspaper, whose editorial said: “The board wants to put on a public mask that hides the sometimes-ugly realities of running a university. It expects students and taxpayers to believe that this board and the administrators it hires are the arbiters of good decisions, and it refuses to answer to those who question that authority.” At Thursday’s meeting, the policy’s drafters insisted that they had never intended to interfere with members’ right to speak their minds, and the board’s governance committee went “virtually word by word” through the policy, said Sally Linder, a university spokeswoman. “Everybody agreed to change any language in it that seemed an attempt in any way to result in the quashing of free speech,” Linder said, noting that the board would consider the revised policy, when it is redrafted, at its April meeting.


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