Senate Adopts Freedom of Expression Opinion
By Miranda Feeley, Staff Writer
The penultimate fall semester meeting of the Gettysburg College Student Senate consisted mainly of two presentations pertaining to the college’s ongoing process of adopting a statement of institutional philosophy on freedom of expression.
One presentation was by College President Janet Morgan Riggs, explaining the committee process, and the other was by Senator Michael Mancuso ‘19, who presented an opinion for the body’s ratification.
Later, Senate passed two budgets and tabled an amendment to the bylaws about funding for the final meeting of the semester, next week.
Riggs spoke to the Senate first, emphasizing that the committee she has established to gather student opinions and sample philosophy statements from other institutions does not have any formal decision-making authority. Rather, the purpose of the group is to draft a statement, which will then be voted upon by the Board of Trustees, the faculty, and Student Senate, she said.
Senate President Luke Frigon ‘18 also noted that if the Senate so chooses, they can send the statement to the entire student body for a referendum vote.
Riggs then addressed concerns that such a vote or such a statement would not be able to please everyone.
“The best we can do is develop a philosophy that most people can agree on,” she stated.
Senator Michael Mancuso ‘19 then presented an opinion that passed the Opinions Committee, which he chairs, for consideration by the full body.
The opinion suggests that Supreme Court precedent should be the guiding principle for institutional conversation on freedom of expression and asserts that college students should enjoy the same right to free speech that students of a public institution would enjoy. Further, the opinion states that the college should distinguish between the rights of students and the rights of speakers brought to campus.
However, the opinion explicitly allows for any “recognized student group [to] invite a speaker onto campus who espouses unpopular or hateful opinions.”
After reassuring the body that the opinion had been drafted with the input of many voices over multiple weeks, the Senate approved the opinion, the full text of which appears below.
Later in the meeting, Senate discussed a proposed policy regarding funding for conferences that had been read at its previous meeting.
During the ensuing conversation, debate grew heated as Senator Jack Lashendock ’20 said it “sickened” him that changes to how Senate funds conferences could adversely affect student groups while Senator Nick Arbaugh ’20 offered an emphatic rebuttal in support of the proposal. The amendment was tabled for further review at a subsequent meeting.
The Senate also authorized a $100.00 reimbursement for the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), and $5,123.62 to International Club for BurgBurst.
An International Club representative in attendance mentioned that all proceeds from tickets will be going to SheCan, a scholarship fund for female leaders from Cambodia and Rwanda that Gettysburg College has partnered with in the past.
Notably, Senate previously did not approve the International Club’s request for funding towards food and advised them to consider rescheduling the event. However, with funding in tow, the event is scheduled for Saturday, December 2.