Junior Senator Hannah Pustejovsky ’18 introduced a bill at the March 3 meeting of the Student Government Association (SGA) that, if passed, would recommend that the College administration develop “an appeals process through which students can voice their dissent and disapproval of speakers, forums and public events that violate community standards, in order to create a system of checks and balances.”
Pustejovsky drafted the bill in the wake of student protests that prevented Dr. Charles Murray from delivering a lecture on campus last Thursday. (See “Charles Murray Visit Provokes Uproar” for full coverage.)
According to Pustejovsky, the appeals process would serve as a forum through which students could present arguments against an invited speaker.
“If students feel as strongly about a speaker as they did this week, I was hoping to provide a forum in which they could express their thoughts in a case-like format, with evidence and an argument in order to support their need. Then, possible solutions could include an adjustment to the event, calling for a teach in or discussion panel that provides more than one viewpoint, or less institutional support for an event,” she said. “I want to again stress that this is all in the very beginning stages and I hope to have further discussions with my constituents about what would best fit their needs.”
At their March 5 meeting, the SGA Senate voted to form an ad hoc committee to draft a final version of the bill. Members of the committee include Pustejovsky, Wonnacott Senator Angie McCarthy ’19, Brainerd Senator Kyle Wright ’19.5, Sophomore Senator Emmanuel Duran ’19, Junior Senator Lily Wilson ’18, Feb Senator Alec Fleischer ’20.5, Feb Senator Rae Aaron ’19.5, Community Council Co-Chair Travis Sanderson ’19 and SGA Chief of Staff Jin Sohn ’18.
Members of the College’s American Enterprise Institute (AEI) Club, the group that invited Murray to campus, attended the March 5 SGA meeting and have expressed opposition to the bill.
“I think that applying community standards to speakers in the form of an appeals board is a truly dangerous concept, it’s a censorship board. It’s a board of censors who get to apply those community standards as they see fit and in doing so, will limit who can speak,” said AEI Executive Council Chair Phil Hoxie ’17.5
It is the fear of some, including Huxie and AEI Vice President and Executive Council Member Alexander Khan ’17, that an appeals process may prevent certain speakers who do not hold prevailing political beliefs from speaking on campus.
“To have any type of mechanism whereby students who disagree with a speaker have the ability to block that speaker from coming to campus is basically an institutional mechanism for shutting down discourse.,” Khan said. “Subjecting speakers brought either by a department or by a club to a set of community standards can easily become a requirement that speakers follow or believe in a certain political ideology that is dictated by people in charge of those community standards.”
SGA President Karina Toy ’17 emphasised that an appeals committee would only provide students with a platform to express their grievances over the invitation of a certain speaker.
“[This is] not an appeals process to say someone can’t bring a speaker on campus but to give students a process of how they express their disagreement with a speaker or an event happening on campus,” she said “That’s all very much up in the air.”
A final version of the bill will be discussed, and potentially voted on, at the March 12 meeting of the SGA.
Features Editor Alex Newhouse and Editor-in-Chief Ellie Reinhardt contributed to this report.