The CUNY Board of Trustees will be considering a CUNY wide policy prohibiting and policing what is alternately called “expressive conduct” or “expressive activity.” A draft of the proposed policy is located here (scroll to page 6). The Committee on Student Affairs and Special Programs will
vote on review this policy on June 6th*, and if it passes, the Board of Trustees will vote on it at its meeting on June 27th.
The Executive Committee of the Doctoral Students’ Council believes that the proposed changes will curtail the ability of students and faculty to disseminate information, gather in shared CUNY spaces, engage in peaceful protest, and participate meaningfully in their campus life. A version of this policy was considered in 2013 by the Board of Trustees, but did not pass due to overwhelming opposition from faculty and students across CUNY. A resolution adopted by the Professional Staff Congress’ Delegate Assembly called on the Board of Trustees to “withdraw the proposed “Policy on Expressive Conduct” from any future consideration” (Nov 14, 2013). The same resolution notes that any CUNY Policy on Expressive Conduct would be in violation of the University’s commitment to freedom of expression. The Board of Trustees affirmed in 1981 that the “University pledges diligently to safeguard the constitutional rights of freedom of expression, freedom of association and open intellectual inquiry of the faculty, staff and students of the University” (CUNY’s Manual of General Policy Section 2.17).
The Doctoral Students’ Council believes that free speech and the right to assembly are inalienable human rights. In a 2013 Resolution in Support of CUNY Student Activism, the DSC endorsed the right of faculty and students to engage in free speech and assembly, and called upon the CUNY Board of Trustees to “take immediate steps to secure an environment supportive of CUNY faculty and student activism.” Accordingly, the currently proposed policies on freedom of expression and expressive conduct are an assault on the inalienable rights of free speech and assembly that CUNY students (who are predominantly of color, and working-class) should enjoy.
The Executive Committee of the Doctoral Students’ Council opposes the proposed policy and calls on the members of the Committee on Student Affairs and Special Programs to vote no, or at least table the proposal until the CUNY community, as a whole, has had a chance to weigh in on it.
*Correction: The proposed policy was not scheduled for a vote at the Committee on Student Affairs and Special Programs, but was merely an ‘informational item’. According to CUNY Central, the proposed language will be ‘recommended’ by the Board of Trustees’ Executive Committee (which does not have any student members on it), and then go to a vote at the Board of Trustees meeting on June 27th.