New Rules for Events and Demonstrations, Pending Open Expression Review

In June, the University’s leadership announced that a faculty-led panel would be reviewing Penn’s Guidelines on Open Expression in the 2024–25 academic year, and in the meantime released a set of Temporary Standards and Procedures for Campus Events and Demonstrations, to go into effect immediately.

The new rules prohibit encampments and overnight demonstrations anywhere on campus. They also forbid the building of structures, walls, or barriers on University property without permission; demonstrations in private residences and offices, and several other types of facilities, including “College Hall and its exterior steps and entranceways”; and climbing on or covering University sculptures and statues, “to preserve these structures and to reduce the risk of injury.”

Other requirements include:

• Requests for use of University space must be made to the designated offices at least 48 hours in advance, and at least two weeks in advance for non-academic events in spaces including the Perelman Quad, Blanche Levy Park and “The Button” sculpture, and Locust Walk.

• Penn community members or departments are not permitted to serve as proxies for non-affiliates seeking access to University spaces, and all contracts for events sponsored by student groups must be signed by a representative of the Office of University Life.

• Amplified sound from bullhorns, musical instruments, or speakers is allowed on College Green or Penn Commons only from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., and not at all during scheduled University events, final exams, and reading days.

• All demonstrators, whether Penn affiliates or not, “are expected to be respectful to University employees” involved in safety and compliance, including by providing identification when requested, for the “sole purpose” of determining their status. (“Events are presumed to be private … unless specifically stated otherwise.”)

• Demonstrations violate the guidelines “if they threaten or advocate violence, create violence, or harass or intimidate any affiliated individuals or groups on the basis of race, religion, national origin or ancestry, identity, sexual orientation, disability, or any other protected class.”

• Protests against campus events and speakers also cannot employ a “heckler’s veto” by interfering with others’ free speech rights, and the online harassing or doxing of students, faculty, or staff is not permitted. If such activity can be shown to be the work of Penn affiliates, “the University may take action as appropriate.”

The faculty-led task force—chaired by Lisa Bellini, senior vice dean for academic affairs at the Perelman School of Medicine and chair of the Committee on Open Expression, and Sigal Ben-Porath, MRMJJ Presidential Professor of Education and faculty director of the SNF Paideia Program [“Creating Civil Citizens,” May|Jun 2024]—will start work this summer, and its charge will include reviewing the temporary standards and procedures.

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