Group Questions Ban on Banners

Civil Liberties Union Says Signs on Holworthy Vital to Expression

Undergraduates longing for a return of student banners to the front of Holworthy Hall may still have hope.

In response to a complaint from the Civil Liberties Union of Harvard (CLUH), Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III has said he will keep discussion open on the College's new policy of banning the banners. Before Holworthy was renovated earlier in the year, a capella groups and student publications were allowed to advertise by hanging banners from the North Yard dorm.

In a one-page letter delivered to Epps on Monday, CLUH said the current policy limits student's freedom of expression.

"The University should seek to create an environment in which speech is not merely free from censorship, but is actively encouraged," the letter said. "Because of the unique significance of Holworthy Hall as a means of communication and expression, we respectfully request that you reconsider your decision to prohibit the hanging of banners."

While he agreed to discuss the policy, Epps gave no indication that he would reverse his decision.

"The principal reason behind the policy [to disallow hanging banners] is that the dorm has been recently refurbished and the college wants to better preserve the look of the building," Epps said. "The hanging of banners is very recent."

Epps said he is willing "to talk further on these issues" and that he is sure they will be able to come up with a "creative solution."

The dean suggested several alternatives to hanging banners. He said student groups could use sandwich boards, electronic bulletin boards or, for especially important events, 4 large board between the Sciences Center and Thayer gales.

CLUH members, however, said they are not satisfied with the alternatives because they are not as effective as the "more eye catching" banners.

"The University should be more dedicated to education and higher learning rather than to aesthetics and tourism," said Devin S. McLachlan '95, CLUH's assistant director.

CLUH, which met with Epps two weeks ago, wrote the letter because they are "interested not only in freedom of speech but also maintaining these avenues of expression," said Jeffrey M. Hauser '95, the group's assistant director of off-campus affairs.

While arguing that the policy abridges expression, Hawser acknowledged that the matter is not necessarily a "First Amendment issue."

CLUH Director Eric D. Miller '95 said the group's appeal was more an attempt to restore the banners than to raise a major rights issue.

"Traditionally and historically [Holworthy] has been used for such a practice and we want to restore the practice to what it has been," Miller said.

Even students in Holworthy said they were disappointed with Epps decision to prohibit the hanging of banners.

"What bothers me the most about the whole thing is that we were treated with a total lack of respect," said Holworthy resident J. Christopher Paul '98. "We were not given a real reason. It seems to me that the benefits out way any disadvantage or problems.