SG Senate endorses BOG Free Expression Statement

With 20 votes in favor and only one abstention, the Student Government Senate affirmed the Florida Board of Governors’ State University System Free Expression Statement. ORACLE PHOTO/ALEXANDRA URBAN

Student Government (SG) senators unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday endorsing the Florida Board of Governors (BOG) Free Expression Statement which encourages civil discourse on campus.

The resolution, primarily authored by senior political science and philosophy major Sam Rechek, states that SG “can and should play an active role in promoting the principles of civil discourse and free expression on campus.”

“It is a goal of Student Government to foster a culture of free inquiry and civil discourse for the USF’s student body on all three campuses,” Rechek said.

The statement’s main goal was to get Florida’s 12 postsecondary public universities to encourage the exchange of ideas and perspectives, debating and challenging others’ opinions and free expression.

While the statement was written in April 2019, the BOG requested in January that leadership at each university within the Board of Trustees, Faculty Senate and Student Government annually review and endorse it.

Senators had some concerns with it, including the statement’s impact on limitations of classroom recordings, speech zones and use of amplified sounds in designated areas.

Being able to freely express concerns and opinions without the fear of being silenced is a part of the resolution, Rechek said.

Some senators also questioned how the university will handle conflict resolution in case a student’s expression victimizes other students, citing the possibility some students could abuse the protection of expression the statement provides.

This concern was quickly shut down, however, as other senators brought up the fact that the BOG’s statement takes that into consideration as it states universities still have the authority to “restrict expression that is unlawful, such as true threats or defamation.”

Rechek guaranteed that all students will be made aware of their limitations and responsibilities, ensuring a comfortable learning environment for all.