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University issues statement on its commitments to free speech, safety

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UL Lafayette is a public institution and is committed to the free, safe and lawful expression of ideas. Open dialogue is fundamental to the University’s academic mission and its role in advancing the public interest.

Maintaining an environment of rational and critical inquiry requires hearing a multitude of opinions, even those that may differ from each other and that may differ from our own as individuals.

The University community witnessed this firsthand over the weekend. Several demonstrations occurred on or near campus that articulated views from across the political and social spectrums.

The opinions expressed by these groups – and their right to peacefully assemble on the University’s campus – are protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, Louisiana law, and UL Lafayette’s Campus Free Speech Policy.

The demonstrations that occurred this weekend were orderly, safe, respectful and closely monitored. And, the Campus Free Speech Policy is designed to ensure that all rallies that happen on University property are as well.

The policy governs the time, place and manner in which demonstrations on campus can occur. It prohibits the incitement of violence, the destruction of property and the endangerment of participants or others.

To restrict groups from campus altogether would violate their rights, these statutes and the University’s own commitment to serving as a forum for diverse views and voices.

However, the University has another unwavering priority – and that’s to ensure the health and safety of every member of its campus community.

Louisiana law has identified UL Lafayette, and all public schools, colleges and universities in the state, as gun-free zones. This law is designed to protect campus property and students, faculty and staff members.

There were individuals at one of this weekend’s events who were carrying firearms. The UL Lafayette Police Department, in collaboration with local and state law enforcement, closely surveilled their activities, and initial reports are that one individual crossed campus boundaries for a short period of time. The individual was removed from the campus premises and was not considered an immediate threat.

This was in violation of the Louisiana statute that defines campus gun-free zones, and the University is investigating.

UL Lafayette is fully committed to enforcing the state’s campus gun-free zone law.

The campus is protected by a significant surveillance system and a well-trained, professional police department. To further protect campus, ULPD, along with its law enforcement partners, has increased patrols around and throughout campus, including residence halls and other communal spaces.

UL Lafayette will continue to balance its obligation to the wellbeing of its entire campus family with its role as a forum for the free, safe and open expression of diverse viewpoints.

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