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Guardian: Demonstration Policy updated nearly one year after campus free speech controversy

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Excerpt from The Guardian

Wright State recently updated its demonstration policy, introducing new language that lays out the requirements for individuals and groups who wish to hold demonstrations on campus.

The university started discussions on the new policy around the time that it was originally scheduled to host a presidential debate, according to Gary Dickstein, PhD., interim vice president for student affairs.

Dickstein said that it is good practice to update policies on a regular basis and to “make sure they are allowing for the most up-to-date processes that make sense.”

The language of the new policy is largely the same as the last one, which was in effect from 2012 until recently. There is, however, new information under a section titled “Notice Policies and Operational Procedures.”

The section includes the following information:

  • “Small groups” consisting of less than one hundred individuals must now submit a request to Dickstein at least one business day before they plan to demonstrate.
  • “Large groups” of more than one hundred people must submit a request to Dickstein at least three day in advance.
  • Any individual student or student organization may request the use of “specific outdoor areas” by contacting the Student Union Administrative Office at least one business day prior to the demonstration.

New language in the policy also defines prohibited equipment and activity including, “firearms; explosives; other weapons, chemicals or fire extinguishers; any open flame devices with the exception of individual candles; and using fire or other incendiary device capable of combustion or burning.”

Individuals and groups are now prohibited from “displaying signs that are attached to sticks, posts, rods or poles,” the policy states.

The policy does not include language explicitly addressing individuals who come to campus to preach on the quad, informally known as “Quad Gods.”

Generally speaking, the policy regarding Quad Gods has been that they are allowed to exercise their first amendment rights unless they are “disruptive,” said Eric Corbitt, director of Student Union and campus recreation.

Actions are determined by the university to be disruptive on a case-by-case basis, Corbitt said.

The update comes nearly one year after the university’s controversial decision to notify campus about a demonstration in the Quad area.

In September of 2017, Dickstein issued a campus-wide email announcing that the organization Created Equal would “erect an anti-abortion display” containing “very graphic images.”

The announcement received criticism from state representative Niraj Antani, R-Miami Twp., who said that Dickstein should not have sent the email. “People who you disagree with still have the right to free speech,” Antani said. We should not “weaken people by shielding them from opinions they disagree with.”

Dickstein stated that the announcement was not intended to dissuade or persuade students from viewing the demonstration, “You’re an adult – you choose whether you want to participate and see that, or whether you want to take a different route.”

Seth Bauguess, director of communications, stated that the university planned to notify campus every time an off-campus group would demonstrate on campus.

Bauguess was unable to provide other examples of this. “There were no other examples of groups coming onto campus last year that we gave notice to campus about,” he said.

Bauguess’ statement also conflicts with one from Dickstein, in which he said that the announcements are “somewhat topic specific” and designed for demonstrations which “elicit strong emotions.”

“I don’t know that we will give a heads up to every single demonstration or march that comes on campus,” Dickstein said.

Created Equal plans to hold another demonstration on Wright State’s Dayton campus this semester, according to Bauguess. “We again plan to give campus a heads up with an email,” he said.

Dickstein confirmed that the university intends to send similar notification-emails in the future.