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Philadelphia Police arrive at the student encampment on the morning of May 10. Credit: Chenyao Liu

Professors Ann Farnsworth-Alvear and Zita Cristina Nunes urge us to read Penn’s Guidelines on Open Expression, arguing that it would be a perversion of those guidelines for the University to discipline students organizing the encampment on College Green, or to take any measures to end the encampment other than negotiation with the protesters. I have taken their advice and read those Guidelines and find nothing that mandates negotiation as the only appropriate response by the University.

Farnsworth-Alvear and Nunes cite the part of the Guidelines that states that “In case of conflict between the principles of the Guidelines on Open Expression and other University policies, the principles of the Guidelines shall take precedence,” (Guidelines I.D), but they interpret this as if it meant that no University policy may be enforced if it restricts open expression by students. This is a misreading of that clause since that document itself makes reference to disciplinary procedures (Guidelines V.D) and mandates the University establish policies and procedures for securing permission to hold demonstrations on campus (Guidelines III.A.2.b). As I read Interim Penn President Larry Jameson’s letter to the Penn community on May 6, the University has determined that the current encampment on College Green is in violation of those policies and procedures (among others), and has instructed the encampment to disperse (in line with Guidelines III.B and V.C). Since the protesters have not complied with this instruction (thus falling under Guidelines III.B), the disciplinary procedures invoked in Guidelines V.D come into play. The Guidelines also discuss the possibility of “[t]erminating a meeting, event, or demonstration by force,” (Guidelines V.C.4), about which it urges extreme caution, citing the possibility of exacerbating existing tensions, and the concern to avoid “injury to persons” and “property damage.”

My point is that the University’s current response to the encampment, which involves initiating the student disciplinary process against organizers yesterday, and using police to shut down the encampment this morning, is in line with its own Guidelines for Open Expression.

SUSAN SAUVÉ MEYER is a retired professor of philosophy. Her email is