To: The Wellesley Community
From: Sheilah Shaw Horton, Vice President and Dean of Students; Andrew Shennan, Provost and Lia Gelin Poorvu ’56 Dean of the College; and Carolyn Slaboden, Assistant Vice President for Human Resources
Re: Policy on Demonstrations and Free Expression
Date: November 25, 2019
In September 2018, President Johnson suspended the College’s interim demonstration policy and charged us with leading a process that would ensure community involvement in the development of a new policy.
Today, we are writing to share the new Policy on Demonstrations and Free Expression, and explain what the policy is designed to do and the process we used to develop it.
This policy was informed by extensive community input that we have collected over the past year. Last fall, we held town hall meetings to canvass community opinions on this issue, and we met with a group of student activists asked by College Government to review the document we had drafted. This year, we again consulted with College Government on the document and specifically asked for advice on its communication. The feedback from all these conversations has helped us clarify and improve the wording of the policy.
We want to be clear: The goal of this policy is not to prevent people from demonstrating—quite the contrary. Our goal is to ensure that there is no confusion on our campus about the rights of individuals to express themselves and to assemble lawfully for that purpose. This policy is designed to enable members of our community to demonstrate in a way that is safe and has impact.
We recognize, of course, that there may be situations when protesters decide to engage in civil disobedience, which, by definition, involves violating policies or laws. No one who engages in civil disobedience can presume to avoid all consequences. In our conversations with students, we have been asked to specify what those consequences would be. It is impossible to provide specific answers for an infinite range of hypothetical situations, but what we can say is that any response to violations of this policy would respect existing procedures and be proportionate to the level of violation.
We appreciate the constructive advice the community has offered us over the past year, and we believe this policy broadly reflects the feedback we have received. We know that no policy is perfect; therefore, we propose a mechanism for review and re-evaluation. To that end, we plan to bring together a group of faculty and students in fall 2020 to review this policy and to measure our progress.