University officials address academic free speech, financial aid concerns at community dialogue


(Claire Pak/The Daily Northwestern)

Dean of Students Todd Adams speaks at a community dialogue in Allison Hall. Adams said the protection of freedom of expression allows for other freedoms, such as freedom of assembly.

Alan Perez, Reporter

Administrators expressed support for academic freedom of speech on campus and addressed students’ concerns regarding financial aid during a community dialogue Monday.

More than 70 people gathered in Allison Hall for the dialogue, which was co-sponsored by Associated Student Government. During the event, students engaged with University officials and voiced their thoughts on campus-related issues, said SESP Prof. Mesmin Destin, who moderated the dialogue.

Addressing timely issues, Dean of Students Todd Adams outlined the University’s approach to protecting freedom of expression. Adams said NU protects freedom of expression because it allows for other freedoms, such as freedom of assembly.

“(Freedom of expression) really is the indispensable condition from which so many of our freedoms come,” Adams said.

Demonstrators, he said, should consider three factors when gathering: time, place and manner. He added that demonstrations should occur at a time and location that allow the University to continue its “academic business.”

Adams said there should be enough space for people to join and leave demonstrations when they want to. The University should also be able to protect its students while they are assembling, he said.

During a Q&A session, Provost Jonathan Holloway defended University President Morton Schapiro’s protection of academic freedom of speech.

Holloway said he wanted to defend the principle behind freedom of expression, but not necessarily individual views that may be expressed.

“I do want to articulate the uncomfortable truth that I will be protecting freedom of expression across many different spaces for fear of actually shutting it down,” Holloway said.

In addition to academic freedom of speech, students told administrators about their financial difficulties and expressed disappointment with their financial aid packages.

SESP sophomore Adam Davies said being financially independent has been especially difficult this year. Davies said he is in need of wisdom teeth removal, but can’t afford it under his current dental insurance plan.

“You would think that that would be a basic human right … to get my teeth taken care of,” Davies said. “I don’t know how I’m going to function at school if I can’t focus due to the pain.”

Michael Mills, associate provost for University enrollment, said earlier in the dialogue that he hears and understands those who express financial concerns.

Mills said while NU is doing better than other peer institutions at providing resources to low-income students, the University could do more.

“We’ve got so much more to do,” he said. “We’re trying to make thoughtful decisions within the resource base that we have, which is not unlimited. I wish it were.”

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