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Demonstrations Policy Clarified After Sanctions Last Semester

The Office of the Dean of Students on Thursday updated Section 4.6.9 of the Code of Student Conduct, its policy on registering demonstrations. The updates clarify some parts of the policy that have caused confusion in the past.

The policy also has new language that voices Boston College’s support of students’ free expression rights, while prioritizing safety and the University’s ability to “promote the distinctive mission of Boston College without undue disruption or interference.” Dean of Students Thomas Mogan said the language was added after he received feedback that the old policy read as somewhat punitive.

At the end of last fall and the beginning of spring semester, Mogan had several meetings with students seeking to clarify the policy, largely as the result of sanctions given to seven students who were involved with two rallies—organized last year by Eradicate BC Racism—that were not registered with the University. He also met with the Undergraduate Government of BC, the Academic Deans Council, the Graduate Students Association, and the group Faculty for Justice, which had also expressed concerns about the policy.

Students involved with Eradicate and the GSA have not yet commented on the updated policy.

The new wording stipulates that any demonstration must have a University-affiliated “Organizer,” “whether one or more enrolled students or the authorized officers of a recognized student organization.” The organizer must meet with the dean of students or a designee to coordinate the demonstration.

“It was always our practice that individual students and/or student leaders in an organization could register a demonstration,” Mogan said. “In the old policy it was sort of written very passively … and was just sort of poorly written in terms of who could actually do that.”

To avoid disrupting classes and offices, the policy also forbids the use of amplified sound before 5 p.m. in certain locations, although alternative locations can be used, as organizers did last year with a “Silence is Violence” march that ended on Lower Campus. The previous policy was that it was not allowed before 4:30.

Some students expressed concern last year that the registration rules were unclear, and Gloria McGillen, LGSOE ’17, and Craig Ford, GMCAS ’21, put together an analysis of BC’s free expression policies and made several recommendations. The most ambitious of those called for BC to create a Commission on Free Expression that could be summoned if students wanted to repeal a decision related to free expression. The policy does not address that recommendation, although Mogan said his office plans to establish a Student Advisory Board to provide feedback on initiatives, policies, and overall student experience.

Another recommendation called for all students, whether acting individually or as representatives of non-registered student organizations, to be able to register demonstrations. Mogan said that policy already existed, although is now clearer in the text.  

Mogan said that recent events at the University of Virginia, in Charlottesville, and the University of California, Berkeley, justify a review process and student sponsor requirements for demonstrations that ensure safety.

“If it’s just our students organizing and participating in an event, I think the likelihood of something like that happening is fairly low,” he said. “However, as we’ve seen with Charlottesville and Berkeley, once you put it out on social media, you sort of lose control over who may end up showing up to an event. So this system is set up to be able to allow us to prepare for these events, and to make sure the students have a positive experience.”

Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor 

September 7, 2017