Who are the ‘Open Expression Monitors’?

Dear Benny,
I was at a large event on campus recently, where opinions and questions were being tossed around freely. In the crowd, I saw some official-looking people wearing buttons that said “Open Expression Monitor.” What’s an open expression monitor?
—Curious

Dear Curious,
As you know, Penn is a community that supports freedom of thought, inquiry, speech, and lawful assembly. It’s important to respect many viewpoints, and that is what open expression monitors aim to do. They are staff members who attend campus events to ensure that anyone who wants to express his or her views has the opportunity to do so.

The monitors are an extension of the Committee on Open Expression, comprised of faculty, staff, and students. They are all volunteers trained to carry out the University’s guidelines on open expression. Event organizers can request monitors to attend events being held by anyone in the University community. Typically, you’ll see monitors at large gatherings such as demonstrations, speeches, panel discussions, rallies, or debates.

The monitors also participate in the resolution of conflicts that may arise from incidents on campus, making sure all channels of communication remain open and effective. The point is to keep a free flow of ideas, and to maintain respect for differing opinions.

The monitors’ mission is outlined in the University’s Open Expression Guidelines:

“The University of Pennsylvania, as a community of scholars, affirms, supports and cherishes the concepts of freedom of thought, inquiry, speech, and lawful assembly. The freedom to experiment, to present and examine alternative data and theories; the freedom to hear, express, and debate various views; and the freedom to voice criticism of existing practices and values are fundamental rights... .” You can read the complete guidelines at www.upenn.edu/provost/PennBook/guidelines_on_open_expression.

Originally published on January 24, 2013