Cameron Pollack / Sun Photography Editor

Matt Battaglia '16, grad, the chair of the University Assembly's Codes and Judicial Committee, speaks at the U.A. meeting on Oct. 17, 2017, where he outlined the U.A.'s proposed changes to the Code of Conduct.

October 28, 2017

Hate Speech Forum Criticized as Community Calls Out Lack of Attendance

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The Codes and Judicial Committee of the University Assembly held a community forum on hate speech and the Campus Code of Conduct on Friday following multiple racially charged incidents on campus, including the alleged assault of a black student, who said he was punched and called N-word by a group of white men in Collegetown, and the posting of anti-Semitic posters on several University buildings.

Hundreds of students held a protest following the alleged assault in September, prompting the U.A. to task the CJC with considering adding a “hate speech” clause to the Code. Both the Student Assembly and the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly passed resolutions that condemned hate crimes and hate speech following the protest.

Yet forum attendees were frustrated by the lack of CJC and U.A. members present at the meeting, calling their absence “disheartening” in light of recent incidents, and arguing that the last minute nature of the forum — which was publicized two days prior — resulted in poor attendance by the community.

“Why are members of the CJC not here?” asked Morgan Miller, grad. “If people on U.A. and CJC are not here, then that speaks to the level of their commitment to implementing change.”

Matthew Battaglia ’16, grad, chair of the CJC, started the forum by presenting the new formation of the Hate Speech Working Group, which he said will seek to involve community members in revising the campus code of conduct and reconsider the existing provisions about harassment. The working group plans to present three to five revisions of the code to the CJC, and the U.A. will then revise, accept or reject these proposals.

“The working group is aimed to represent various voices on campus, and encourage participation by meeting and speaking on these proposals,” Battaglia said. “We’re trying to make it open to the community. It’s meant to be consensus driven.”

The provision in the Code about harassment that the working group will focus on says it is a violation “To harass another person (1) by following that person or (2) by acting toward that person in a manner that is by objective measure threatening, abusive, or severely annoying and that is beyond the scope of free speech.” The language of this provision is too broad, attendees agreed.

Attendees said they were displeased with the membership structure of the working group, calling on the CJC to reconsider the structure of the membership to involve community members like University employees.

Miller said that the process in which it was created left out community members, despite the CJC’s effort to be transparent in its formation.

“It seems like everything is already worked out and decided,” she said. “Regular members of the community are not going to have voting rights, there has been a lot of decision making without us. If this was supposed to be about us, we should have been involved on the outset.”

The CJC will host a second open forum in the coming weeks, as well as opportunities for people to submit written feedback and comments about the hate speech and provisions to the Campus Code of Conduct.