What does the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause protect?

  • Expression! The First Amendment protects your right to express opinions, beliefs, ideas. Expression can be verbal or symbolic. It can occur on clothes, armbands, social media, canvas, theater, or really anywhere. It can be what someone writes, reads, performs, or participates in.
  • UVU’s Policy 161 says “The University is committed to protecting and enhancing the free exchange of ideas and to artistic expression, the right to free speech, and academic freedom in the University and on the university campus without prior restraint or censorship, subject to limitations on unlawful/unprotected speech and to clearly stated, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory rules regarding time, place, and manner” (section 4.2.1).

What types of expression are not protected by the Constitution?

Courts have held that certain types of speech are not constitutionally protected: 1) obscenity; 2) child pornography; 3) defamation; 4) speech that tends to incite an immediate violent reaction in the hearer; 5) speech that incites or produces imminent lawless action and that is likely to incite or produce such an action; 6) harassment; 7) speech that substantially disrupts, obstructs, or interferes with classes, teaching, the use of offices, ceremonies, sporting events, or other university activities; 8) speech that damages university or private property; 9) speech that discloses confidential information or trade secrets of the University or private parties without appropriate authorization; 10) threats intended to cause a reasonable person to fear for their safety; and 11) employee speech that is not a matter of public concern.

When does speech become harassment?

Generally, harassment occurs when unwelcome expressive activity targets an individual or group of individuals in such a severe or pervasive way that it reasonably limits or interferes with educational benefits or opportunities of a student or alters the conditions of employment of an employee. It’s more than simply being rude—it’s next-level meanness.

How can I report a concern or violation?

Is chalking permitted on campus?

  • Messages written in sidewalk chalk may be drawn on sidewalks located in the Pope Science Courtyard and the Student Life Wellness Center Plaza but are not permitted on any permanent standing structures.
  • Messages or slogans of any kind may not be painted, hung, or otherwise written on trees, buildings, windows, sidewalks, grounds, fountains, walls, or other structures or surfaces, or on the personal property of others.
  • There is no fee for drawing signage with chalk, but individuals or organizations that fail to comply with the location restrictions may be fined any additional cost needed for the removal of chalk.

What about free speech in class or university-sponsored projects?

  • Faculty have the right to set parameters and topics for readings, assignments, and discussions, so long as they are related to legitimate pedagogical goals. This means that students can expect off-topic discussion points to be redirected back to topics relevant to the class learning objectives; substantially disruptive expression (e.g., not allowing others to speak) to be disallowed; and failing to adhere to assignment instructions to be reflected in grades. Courts have recognized that faculty must exercise some control over their classrooms to deliver on the intended educational outcomes.
  • Some courses will involve uncomfortable readings and discussions. Departments and faculty have academic freedom to craft the content of courses and decide what’s necessary to achieve intended learning outcomes. Students do not have to agree with content encountered in class. In fact, thoughtful and respectful disagreement is a skill that higher education seeks to nurture. In doing so, please be respectful of the learning environment of other students and faculty members.
  • Faculty will not discriminate against students for their viewpoints—even if deeply unpopular—and will evaluate students based solely on their academic performance.

What is “hate speech?” Is it illegal?

Hate speech is any expression motivated by prejudice or hostility toward a person or group, because of the person’s or group’s actual or perceived identity. Hate speech is not illegal. In UVU’s view, it’s also not productive. Hate speech is a waste of free speech.

Do I need to reserve a location for a protest?

It is not necessary for a person planning a protest or demonstration to get prior permission from the University, but it is encouraged that Event Services is notified beforehand.