- Associated Press - Thursday, April 27, 2017

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - The University of Missouri’s Columbia campus announced revised policies related to protests on Thursday, nearly two years after the campus was besieged by demonstrations over racial concerns.

The new policies, developed over the past 15 months, include a commitment to “protecting the rights of expression, assembly, protest, and dissent.” The changes also include making outdoor areas available whenever possible, even for unscheduled gatherings.

“Free speech and the ability to engage in our democratic process in public spaces is vital to the future of the United States and core to the mission of the University of Missouri,” Interim Chancellor Hank Foley said in a statement.

The Columbia campus was at the center of unrest in the fall of 2015, when hundreds of students protested the way university leadership handled complaints and concerns about race and discrimination. At the peak of the protests, the Missouri football team threatened to boycott a game.

The unrest led to extensive changes at the university, including the resignations of then-University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe and the Columbia campus’ chancellor, R. Bowen Loftin.

Under the new policy, the camping that became common during the 2015 protests will largely be prohibited. But chalking will be allowed as a way to express thoughts and ideas.

The policy changes were developed by a special committee.

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