DISSENT AND DISORDER, UNIVERSITY POLICY
All individuals within the Wittenberg University community share one prime common obligation: to maintain the creative educational atmosphere which is both the life and the goal of this institution. This atmosphere can be achieved only by a community committed to a policy of continuous, progressive growth and change, and by individuals who, in their search for truth, acknowledge the vital interdependence of freedom and responsibility. The life of this University is not threatened by tensions that make for change. Rather it is threatened by forces and events that inhibit the resolution of tension and subsequent application of fresh ideas.
Since such inhibitory situations arise most often when the available means of self-expression and communication prove inadequate, free and open channels of communication have been established: every member of the Wittenberg community can express concerns with the expectation that they will be brought to the attention of the proper authorities or to a broad segment of the University community for examination and discussion. However, we recognize that these channels may not invariably satisfy the desires of some members of the University community. If an individual or the members of a group should find the existing channels inadequate, the University will support their right to call immediate attention to their ideas by petition, public protest, or any innovative means, so long as the means employed do not seriously infringe upon established rights of others and do not violate local, state, or federal laws.
The presence of new points of view which may be expressed in innovative ways can produce conflict and tensions within the University community. The policy to be adopted in a given instance cannot be determined in advance by prescribing rules; it can be determined only within the situation, by resolute exercise of wisdom and understanding.
Whenever dissenting individuals or groups of individuals challenge the established community, two fundamental values must be preserved:
- The freedom to criticize, to protest, to organize for the purpose of changing the community, and
- The right to enjoy the privileges and immunities of an order which protects the rights and freedoms of all and insures the peace and security of the community.
The vital coexistence of these two values imposes certain rights and responsibilities upon all members of the community. The community, as a corporate whole, has responsibility to develop an organizational structure that is receptive to new ideas, and to promote serious evaluation for these ideas. And it has the right to insist that growth and change shall come about through peaceful, orderly processes. The dissenter has the right to communicate and publicize ideas and to use irregular and innovative means of expression if the normal channels prove inadequate. This freedom is limited only by dissenter's responsibility to maintain the order established on this campus. An act of dissent must not seriously disturb this order.
Clearly, the rights and freedoms of dissent cannot be appealed to in justification of actions that harm or threaten harm to individuals or that destroy property. In such cases the University is obligated to take steps necessary to safeguard individuals and protect property, and to carry out disciplinary action against offenders.
To a lesser degree, it is possible that the personal rights and immunities of individuals may be infringed upon by various non-violent actions which, when they disrupt the functioning of the University cannot be condoned. The seriousness of a given offense will depend upon the circumstances of the occasion.
When, in the opinion of the Dean of Students or the Dean's representative, a disturbance threatens to disrupt campus life, the Dean must take immediate steps in order (l) to offer to establish, within a stated length of time, special channels of communication with representatives of the disturbing group; and (2) to request immediate cessation of the disturbance so that discussions may be carried out under suitable conditions. If order is not restored after these steps have been taken, then the disturbance may be regarded as a disruption.
Should a serious disorder occur, it will be the immediate responsibility of the Dean of Students, acting in consultation with the President, and/or the Provost, or their representatives, to determine that a disruption does in fact exist, to take initial steps as outlined above, and to call upon such agencies and authorities as is deemed necessary to restore order.
Once order has been restored, and if the disorder has been declared a disruption, the University will act as follows: If the Dean of Students believes there is a need for judicial action, the case shall be referred in writing to the Student Senate Hearing Board which shall then, with the aid of such additional parties as it deems appropriate, determine what action shall be taken.