Editorial: Give students resources, not guidelines, for free expression

Dean of Student Life Terry Martinez recently released the Interim Student Guidelines for the Protection of Public Expression, intended to provide resources for Hopkins students who might be new to protesting.

The guidelines also aim to prevent protests from taking place in spaces that other groups have already reserved. The guidelines have since received backlash from student groups, who published a piece in last week’s News-Letter.

As student journalists dedicated to free expression, the Editorial Board condemns these guidelines. While we understand that they are only “guidelines” and are not meant to be coercive, placing constraints on free expression is antithetical to the concept. The phrase “guidelines on free expression” is an oxymoron.

The Editorial Board believes that if student groups want the administration’s advice on holding protests, they should get it. But the University needs to reframe these guidelines as a list of resources available to students.

Any language that may be construed as coercive needs to be removed, and it must be clear to the student body that following these guidelines is not mandatory or expected.

University President Ronald J. Daniels and Martinez say that they support student protest, and they have an obligation to make that clear in the following drafts of these guidelines.

It is heartening that Martinez has expressed interest in meeting with Hopkins Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and other concerned student groups to address their reservations.

Martinez articulated that the guidelines are intended to avoid disturbing educational activities at Hopkins, but it is important to note that the very point of protesting is to disturb and to make people listen.

The University must also clarify the position of contract workers within the document. They have played a central role in on-campus protests this year, and while contract workers are not technically Hopkins employees, they are part of the Hopkins community and deserve the same rights as student protesters.

The Editorial Board hopes the University will make the necessary changes in order to accomplish its goals and ensure free expression on campus remains free.

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