Committee to recommend final expressive activity policy

A committee of faculty members, students and staff has embarked on a review of the university’s interim policy governing protests and other expressive activities, and plans to issue a report early in the fall semester recommending a final policy for implementation.

The Committee on Campus Expressive Activity, which met for the first time on May 7, is charged by university leadership with making recommendations for the formulation of a Cornell policy that both protects free expression and the right to protest, while establishing content-neutral limits that ensure the ability of the university community to pursue its mission.

“I am grateful to the committee for engaging in a deliberative process to recommend an expressive activity policy that will serve the entire Cornell community,” said Provost Michael I. Kotlikoff. “Protest is an essential element of a vibrant community of diverse views and passions, and its protection is of the utmost importance to assure that power is held to account. However, our community cannot function without limits to disruptive conduct that infringes on the rights of others or constitutes hostile environment harassment to members of our community. It will be critical for the committee to recommend a framework with clear definitions and standards for determining reasonable restrictions to disruptive protests and appropriate disciplinary consequences.”

Colleen L. Barry, dean of the Cornell Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy, chairs the 19-member committee, which includes representatives from across the university’s colleges and schools, among them three legal scholars and members of the Faculty Senate, Student Assembly, Graduate and Professional Student Assembly and Employee Assembly.

“The committee is dedicated to recommending a content-neutral policy that will guide the Cornell community through periods of upheaval and protest for many years to come,” Barry said.

Released in January, midway through the universitywide Freedom of Expression theme year, the interim policy sought to clarify and consolidate existing policies governing expressive activity, from hosting events to protests, postering, chalking and installations. It aims to support several of the university’s core values: purposeful discovery, free and open inquiry and expression, and being a community of belonging.

“We value free and open inquiry and expression – tenets that underlie academic freedom – even of ideas some may consider wrong or offensive,” the core values state. “Inherent in this commitment is the corollary freedom to engage in reasoned opposition to messages to which one objects.”

In a March 11 update, President Martha E. Pollack and Kotlikoff announced adjustments to the interim policy based on community feedback, and plans to convene a group of stakeholders to refine and finalize the policy before presenting it to the University Assembly and Faculty Senate for review and comment in the fall.

The committee’s charge notes that finding the balance between protecting expressive rights and eliminating hostile working, learning and living environments is ongoing and at times challenging work. According to the charge, reasonable and content-neutral “time, place and manner” restrictions – including rules on when and where protests may occur and rules prohibiting interference with invited speakers or engaging in harassment – provide a framework for resolving inevitable conflicts.

“The Interim Expressive Activity Policy is designed to foster a diverse community of belonging, uphold the civil rights of all to be free from unlawful discrimination or harassment, protect public health and safety for all, and maintain the continuity of core academic operations,” the charge states.

In its report, the committee has been asked to address three main objectives: to recommend an expressive activity policy that is legally compliant and advances the university’s core values; to recommend a framework for accountability measures for individuals and groups whose policy violations undermine the policy’s objectives; and to propose a strategy for educating faculty, staff and students about the importance of content-neutral time, place and manner rules.

The committee will review comments on the Interim Expressive Activity Policy compiled by the University Assembly, and is soliciting additional input from the Cornell community via email ( and through an anonymous survey link.

Members of the Committee on Campus Expressive Activity are:

  • Colleen L. Barry, inaugural dean of the Cornell Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy
  • Lucia A. Balestrieri ’26, member, Student Assembly; College of Arts and Sciences
  • Kenneth P. Birman, the N. Rama Rao Professor of Computer Science, Cornell Ann S. Bowers College of Computing and Information Science
  • Marcy Benda, executive vice chair, University Assembly (2024-25); assistant to the associate dean for hospital operations, College of Veterinary Medicine
  • Carl Cornell, member at-large, Employee Assembly; assistant director of undergraduate advising, Bowers CIS; board member, LGBTQ+ Colleague Network Group
  • Eve D. De Rosa, dean of faculty and the Mibs Martin Follett Professor in the College of Human Ecology
  • Michael C. Dorf, the Robert S. Stevens Professor of Law, Cornell Law School
  • Christian Flournoy ’27, member, Student Assembly; Cornell Engineering
  • Seema Golestaneh, associate professor of Near Eastern studies, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Adi Grabiner-Keinan, Ph.D. ’16, executive director for academic diversity, equity and inclusion education; director, Intergroup Dialogue Project
  • James Grimmelmann, the Tessler Family Professor of Digital and Information Law, Cornell Tech and Cornell Law
  • Ava Lagressa, member, Graduate and Professional Student Assembly; chair, University Assembly (2024-25); Master of Public Administration student, Brooks School
  • Mark E. Lewis, the Maxwell M. Upson Professor of Engineering and director, School of Operations Research and Information Engineering, Cornell Engineering; member, Faculty Senate and University Faculty Committee
  • Melia Matthews, president, Graduate and Professional Student Assembly (2023-24); doctoral student in the field of biomedical and biological science
  • Rachel Mikofsky, student representative, M.D.-Ph.D. Advisory Committee; medical student and doctoral candidate in neuroscience, Weill Cornell Medicine
  • Angela Odoms-Young, the Nancy Schlegel Meinig Associate Professor of Maternal and Child Nutrition in the Division of Nutritional Sciences, College of Human Ecology; director, Food and Nutrition Education in Communities program
  • Chris Schaffer, professor, Meinig School of Biomedical Engineering, Cornell Engineering; nominated representative, Faculty Senate
  • Dr. Adam Stracher, chief medical officer and associate dean for clinical affairs, Weill Cornell Medicine; director of primary care, Weill Cornell Physician Organization
  • Nelson Tebbe, the Jane M.G. Foster Professor of Law, Cornell Law.

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Lindsey Knewstub