- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 21, 2014

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) - The University of Oklahoma’s president has voided a policy that prohibited students from making negative public comments about the school’s band.

Before President David Boren rescinded the band’s rule last week, it said student members could face dismissal from the band if they wrote negative posts about it online. He said the policy found in the university’s band handbook and an agreement that students had to sign saying they would follow it obstructed their free speech.

Boren wrote an email Friday to school leaders of the Fine Arts college, the Tulsa World reported (http://bit.ly/1r9HiRu ). He said he first saw the band handbook and a copy of the participation agreement Friday afternoon, noting that it wasn’t submitted to him or the university’s general counsel before it was issued. He said band members should be notified that the policy would no longer be enforced.

“This university is firmly devoted to the right of free speech under the first amendment to the Constitution,” Boren wrote. “In my opinion, both the section of the handbook cited and the participation agreement are contrary to the basic value of free speech at this university.”

A letter signed by students of the Pride of Oklahoma marching band was published Friday in Oklahoma and Texas newspapers. It said Boren has stifled concerns about the direction of the organization. The students, who were not identified in the letter, criticized associate band director Justin Stolarik’s leadership, complaining about his teaching methods and lack of feedback.

Some band members said they didn’t appreciate that the students who wrote the letter signed it on behalf of all band students. Junior Tom Joyce said it didn’t represent everyone’s view.

An email seeking comment was sent to Stolarik on Tuesday. An automated message for Stolarik’s phone said his voicemail inbox was full.

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Information from: Tulsa World, http://www.tulsaworld.com

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