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Faculty Adopts Controversial Proposal

Free Speech Policy to be Consistent With the First Amendment

By Brian R. Hecht

Nearly two months after the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) tabled a controversial passage in a set of new free speech guidelines, the Faculty Council yesterday approved a nearly-unchanged version of the disputed section.

Members of the faculty put the proposed guidelines on hold after expressing concern that the three-page prologue's definition of free speech might be more restrictive than that provided by the U.S. Constitution.

But the Faculty Council yesterday added only one sentence, cautioning that all decisions under the new guidelines would have to be "consistent with the established First Amendment standards."

The full Faculty will consider, and is expected to pass, the amended section at its next full meeting on May 1, administrators said.

Professor of Government Joseph S. Nye, for whom the new guidelines are named, said in an interview yesterday that although the change was relatively minor, it should satisfy those who felt the original prologue was too restrictive. "It's not a major change," Nye said.

"I had a meeting with President [Derek C.] Bok," Nye said. "We worked out wording which seemed to express the intents of the [free speech] committee and of the Faculty Council."

At February's FAS meeting, it was Bok who spearheaded the criticism which led the Faculty to table the controversial passage. "If we mean to deviate in some fashion from the First Amendment, then we're up to some very serious business indeed," Bok said at that session.

The original prologue, while describing the delicate balance between protected and unprotected speech, did not make any specific reference to the First Amendment.

Some of the passage's more vocal critics--including Richard Marius, director of the Expository Writing program--said yesterday that the change satisfied their major objections.

Marius said the change "sounds just fine," adding that the amendment expressed his sentiments very well. "I had a long talk with Joe Nye, and that's very close to what I said," Marius said.

"I just feel that to start off [the report] by saying 'We're not obligated to observe the First Amendment because we're a private university' iswrong-headed," Marius said.

Nye said that he consulted with manyadministrators--including Bok, Vice President andGeneral Counsel Daniel Steiner '54 and Dean of theCollege L. Fred Jewett '57--before submitting therevised prologue to the Faculty Council.

The Faculty Council had approved the originalversion of the report after more than a year ofcommittee work, legal review and Facultydeliberations. The Faculty's unanimous vote totable the original passage was surprising to most,since the full Faculty traditionally approvesalmost every measure forwarded to it by theCouncil, its executive steering committee.

The portion of the report already approved bythe Faculty defines what constitues "disruptive"speech at campus events and recommends the use ofan officially designated moderator when necessary.

The original guidelines explicitly avoidedlaying out specific rules for free speechconflicts that may arise in informal settings,such as racist material displayed on t-shirts orwritten on banners.

The free speech report was originally promptedby the disruption of two campus speaking events in1987, after which some administrators said theyfeared that controversial speakers would avoidengagements at Harvard

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