We, as the Editorial Board of the Old Gold & Black, are concerned with proposed revisions to Section Two: Prohibited Behavior of the student Code of Conduct — specifically the changes designed to limit “Disruption or Obstruction of University Activities,” as these may effectively limit the free speech of students.
The vagueness of the proposed language is our biggest concern, as we believe it leaves room for varied implementation of the policies.
As a campus newspaper, we believe freedom of speech is integral to the flourishing of a campus community. Yet these changes put students voices in jeopardy and undermines the freedoms of Wake Forest students.
A liberal arts education rests upon academic freedom. It is designed to encourage students to explore, think critically and develop their identities. The proposed revisions to the Code of Conduct have the potential to limit the ability of students to challenge the university.
When there is a change in the student code of conduct, it directly impacts the student experience. It is therefore imperative that alterations proposed by the administration be actively examined by the student body itself.
Students are encouraged to review the suggested revisions to the Code of Conduct, offer electronic feedback on the language proposed through December 1, 2017 and to attend the various listening sessions offered this fall. We value the administration’s transparency and the institution of a public comment process.
However, we are unhappy that these possible changes are even in consideration.
As stated by Associate Dean of Students Matt Clifford in the letter distributed to students about the public comment process, “the undergraduate Student Code of Conduct is a critical document within the student experience. More than just a list of rules, the Code of Conduct describes the values of the institution and the kind of students Wake Foresters aspire to be.”
The potential limitations on free speech that could result from the proposed revisions to the code of conduct call into question these values.
As a news publication, the Editorial Staff believe the idea of free speech is a universal freedom. On a university campus, free speech is crucial to constructive intellectual debate and expansion of students’ horizons. The Editorial Staff understands the importance of free speech and won’t stand by idly as the administration tries to undermine student voices.
We are also curious about the administration’s reasoning for these changes, which appear to take power out of the hands of students and may serve to further empower the leaders of the university to make decisions that affect students without their say.