Division of Student Affairs

Campus Speech Policy

The University of North Alabama is committed to fostering a learning environment where free inquiry and expression are encouraged. The University is a diverse community based on free exchange of ideas and devoted to the use of reason and thought in the resolution of differences. In exercising its responsibility to provide and maintain an atmosphere of free inquiry and expression, the University may establish reasonable time, place and manner restrictions for the purpose of avoiding disruption to or substantial interference with its regular and essential operations and activities. The University will not base decisions regarding time, place and manner upon the content of the message, except as permitted in those narrow areas of expression devoid of federal or state constitutional protection.

Lawful and peaceful demonstration as an expression will be permitted and protected. On the other hand, the University will not tolerate coercive disruption, defined generally herein as activity that imposes the will of other persons or groups within the University community, outside of the established University procedures and policies for the expression of opinion and the resolution of differences. Coercive disruption is construed to include any activity which, contrary to law:

Denies the rights of other students, the faculty or the staff of the University.

Disrupts or obstructs educational and other activities of the University.

Reacts to the expression of the peaceful dissent of others by attempting to deny their rights.

Obstructs or restricts free movement of persons on any part of the University campus, including the free entry to or exit from University facilities.

Denies or interferes with the use of offices or other facilities to the students, faculty, officers, staff or guests of the University.

Threatens or endangers the safety of any person on the University campus. This includes but is not limited to signs on any forms of stakes.

Results in damage to or destruction of property.

Contains “fighting words” which are those words that by their very utterance tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace.

Constitutes “hate violence,” meaning any act of physical intimidation or physical harassment, physical force or physical violence, or the threat of physical force or physical violence, that is directed against any person or group, or the property of any person or group because of the ethnicity, race, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, disability, or political or religious beliefs of that person or group. (Acts shall not be considered “hate violence” based on speech alone, except upon a showing that the speech itself threatens violence against a specific person or group, that the person or group against whom the threat is directed reasonably fears that the violence will be committed because of the speech, and that the person threatening violence had the apparent ability to carry out the threat.)

Makes sustained or repeated noise in a manner which substantially interferes with a speaker’s ability to communicate his/her message or the rights of others to listen.

Since a clear differentiation between lawful or peaceful dissent and coercive disruption may often be difficult, the foregoing list is illustrative and not exhaustive; this list is expected to evolve, based on experience and changes in the law. It should be understood that the application of this policy also takes situational factors into consideration. For example, conduct appropriate at a political rally might constitute a violation of this policy if it occurred within a classroom.

Any coercive disruption initiated by a visitor or a member of the University community or occurring during any University-sanctioned activity or function may be met by the action of the University that is necessary to restore the order and communication required for the rational solution of problems and free debate. In addition, any coercive disruption by a visitor or a member of the University community may be subject to disciplinary action and/or legal action through local, state or federal courts.  Individuals who damage or destroy University property, including but not limited to campus lawns, shrubs, and trees, shall be held responsible for such damage or destruction.

Enforcement and interpretation of the policy shall be the responsibility of the Vice President for Student Affairs through the Office of University Events.  Requests for the use of University space for the purpose of free inquiry and expression should be directed to the Director of University Events, 202 University Center. 

Note:  The language in this policy is extracted and/or revised from the University of Southern California Public Speech Policy.

Approved by BOT 12/5/08