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Procedure GA-PA-PR1 Free Speech, Expression and Assembly

Dates Effective: July 31, 2020

Responsible Officer: Vice President for Student Affairs

Sponsoring Department: Student Affairs

Errors or changes to:  Office of Legal Affairs

 

Contents

Objective

Scope 

Procedures

Definitions

Relevant Federal and State Statutes 

Relevant UT System and UTA Policies, Procedures, and Forms

Appendices

Contact Information

 

Objective

This procedure supports and implements UTA Policy GA-PA-PO1 University Policy on Free Speech, Expression, and Assembly (“Policy”).

Scope 

This procedure protects and regulates speech, expression, and assembly of students, faculty members, staff members, and members of the public on campus or participating in University sponsored activities.

 

Procedures

 

I. General Rules on Means of Expression

Disruption

Except as expressly authorized in the section below on amplified sounds, or by an authorized University official responsible for a program or event sponsored by an academic or administrative unit, no speech, expression, or assembly may be conducted in a way that disrupts or interferes with: any teaching, research, administration, function of the University, or other authorized activities on the campus; free and unimpeded flow of pedestrian and vehicular traffic on the campus; or signs, tables, exhibits, public assemblies, distribution of literature, guest speakers, or use of amplified sound by another person or organization acting under the rules in this Policy.

The term “disruption” and its variants, as used in this Policy, are distinct from and broader than the phrase “disruption of activities,” as used in the Regents’ Rules and Regulations, Rule 30103, and the phrase “disruptive activities,” as used in the Regents’ Rules and Regulations, Rule 40502. This Policy is concerned not only with deliberate disruption, but also with scheduling and coordination of events to manage or minimize the inevitable conflicts between legitimate events conducted in close proximity, and to preserve the University’s ability to execute its functions.

Except in the most extreme cases, interference and disruption are unavoidably contextual. Intentional physical interference with other persons is nearly always disruptive in any context. Interfering with traffic depends on the relation between the volume of traffic and the size of the passageway left open. Disruptive noise is the most contextual of all, because it depends on the activity disrupted. Any distracting sound may disrupt a memorial service. Any sound sufficiently loud or persistent to make concentration difficult may disrupt a class or library. Occasional heckling in the speaker’s pauses may not disrupt a political speech, but persistent heckling that prevents listeners from hearing the speaker does disrupt a political speech. These illustrations may be helpful, but none of them includes enough context to be taken as a rule. Consequently, decisions of what constitutes a disruption will be made on a case-by-case basis relying on the judgment and fairness of University authorities. Where difficult enforcement judgments are unavoidable, administrators and law enforcement officials should not be influenced by the viewpoint of those claiming disruption or of those allegedly disrupting.

Potentially disruptive events can often proceed without disruption if participants, administrators, and law enforcement officials cooperate to avoid disruption without stopping the event. In cases of marginal or unintentional disruption, administrators and law enforcement officials should clearly state what they consider disruptive and seek voluntary compliance before stopping the event or resorting to disciplinary charges or arrest.

Damage to Property

No speech, expression, or assembly may be conducted in a way that damages, defaces, marks, discolors, or alters in any way property of the University or of any person who has not authorized the speaker to damage or deface his or her property. No person may damage, deface, mark, discolor, alter, or interfere with any sign, table, or exhibit posted or displayed by another person or organization acting under the rules in this procedure.

Coercing Attention

No person may attempt to coerce, intimidate, or badger any other person into viewing, listening to, or accepting a copy of any communication.

No person may persist in requesting or demanding the attention of any other person after that other person has attempted to walk away or has clearly refused to attend to the speaker’s communication.

Other Rules with Incidental Effects on Speech

Other generally applicable or narrowly localized rules, written and unwritten, incidentally limit the time, place, and manner of speech, but are too numerous to compile or cross-reference here. For example, the UTA library may have highly restrictive rules concerning noise; laboratories and rooms containing electrical and mechanical infrastructure of the University typically have safety rules and rules excluding persons without specific business there; fire and safety codes prohibit the obstruction of exits and limit the constriction of hallways. Speech within classrooms is generally confined to the subject matter of the class; the right to attend a class is subject to registration and payment of tuition; individual professors may have rules of decorum in their classrooms. These types of rules limit the right of students, faculty members, and staff members to enter and speak in the places to which these rules apply.

Reasonable and nondiscriminatory rules of this kind generally control over the rights of free speech guaranteed in this procedure. But even these kinds of rules are subject to the constitutional right of free speech. Such rules must be viewpoint neutral and not restrict speech more than is reasonably necessary to serve their purpose. Such rules cannot ban unobtrusive forms of communication with no potential for disruption even in the specialized environment subject to the localized rule. Thus, for example, means of silent expression or protest confined to the speaker’s immediate person, such as armbands, buttons, and T-shirts, are nearly always protected because they are rarely disruptive in any environment.

The director of the Involvement & Engagement (I&E), administers and schedules reservations for the use of the temporary exhibit and banner spaces, and use of University tables, for all University persons and organizations because scheduling through a single office is necessary to avoid conflicts. The Director also administers and schedules reservations in the common outdoor areas and the use of the amplified sound for all University persons, University organizations, and members of the public.

 

II. Distribution of Literature

 

Registered student organizations, sponsored student organizations, faculty organizations and staff organizations, and academic and administrative units may sell, distribute, or display Literature on campus, subject to the rules in the Policy, this procedure and to the general rules in UTA HOP CO-UF-PO1. Individual students, faculty, and staff members may distribute Literature, subject to the rules in this procedure, but may not sell it. No advance permission is required to distribute literature. Members of the public may distribute Literature in the common outdoor areas, subject to the rules in this procedure, but may not sell literature.

Except as expressly authorized by the Regents’ Rules and Regulations or by contract with the University, no person or organization may sell, distribute, or display on campus any publication operated for profit. A registered student, sponsored student, faculty, or staff organization may sell publications operated for profit as part of a fund-raiser authorized by, and subject to the limits of, this procedure. A publication is operated for profit if any part of the net earnings of the publication, or of its distribution, inures to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual.

Literature distributed on campus may contain the following advertising: advertising for a registered organization (student, faculty, or staff) or an academic or administrative unit; advertising for an organization that is tax exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code; paid advertising in a publication primarily devoted to promoting the views of a not-for-profit organization or to other bona fide editorial content distinct from the paid advertising; and other advertising expressly authorized by the Regents’ Rules and Regulations or by contract with the University. All other advertising in literature distributed on campus is prohibited.

Any person or organization distributing literature on campus will pick up all copies dropped on the ground in the area where the literature was distributed.

III. Signs, Banners, and A-Frames

General Rule on Signs

“Sign” means any method of displaying a visual message to others, except that transferring possession of a copy of the message is distribution of literature and not a sign. Subject to the rules in this procedure, a University person or organization may display a sign by holding or carrying it, or by displaying it at a table, or by posting it on a bulletin board, or other designated location. Signs may not be staked in the ground or posted in any other location except for those areas allowed by this procedure. All signs that are to be posted on a bulletin board or other designated location that does not fall under this section must be date-stamped by the I&E. All signs must comply with the Sign Implementation Policy, copies of which may be found on the I&E web site and at the I&E.

Hand-Held Signs

A University person or University organization may display a sign on campus by holding or carrying it by hand or otherwise attaching it to their person. Members of the public may display a sign in the common outdoor areas by holding or carrying it by hand or otherwise attaching it to their person. No advance permission is required. Signs on sticks or poles or otherwise attached to any device are prohibited, unless approved in advance by I&E or UTAPD. Hand-held signs constructed of materials that create a hazard to other people are not permitted. Signs constructed of rigid materials, including sticks, poles, wood, metal, hard plastic, or other materials that could be construed as a hazard are not permitted. Any person holding or carrying a sign will exercise due care to avoid bumping, hitting, or injuring any other person.

Any person holding or carrying a sign at a speech, performance, or other event will exercise due care to avoid blocking the view of any other person observing the speech, performance, or event. Depending on the venue, this may mean that signs may be displayed only around the perimeter of a room or an audience.

A law enforcement officer or a Student Affairs official, or an usher or other University employee if authorized by officials responsible for managing the venue, may warn any person that his or her sign is being handled in violation of this procedure. If the violation persists after a clear warning, the law enforcement officer, Student Affairs official, authorized usher, or other authorized employee may confiscate the sign. A law enforcement officer may take any action necessary to keep the peace including but not limited to issuing a criminal trespass warning to the violator.

Banners

“Banner” means an affixed, stationary sign hung from a structure or building, or between two buildings, structures, or poles. Banners on poles may not be carried by individuals unless approved in advance by I&E or UTAPD.

University persons, University organizations, and members of the public are permitted to display a hand-held banner carried by two or more individuals, in accordance with the Handheld Signs section above, in the common outdoor areas. I&E will designate temporary banner spaces where banners may be hung in locations not occupied or controlled by any other academic or administrative unit. Other academic and administrative units may designate temporary banner spaces where banners may be hung in indoor or outdoor locations that the unit occupies or controls. These temporary banner spaces are not open to members of the public. Academic and administrative units and registered students, sponsored students, faculty, and staff organizations may hang banners in locations designated in this section.  Individuals and members of the public may not hang banners.

Advance permission to display a banner must be acquired from the appropriate unit occupying or controlling the space. In some instances, reservations may be required.  Priority may be given to University sponsored/organization affiliated units.

In locations administered by the I&E the banner rules are outlined in the Sign Implementation Policy found at the I&E website. Other units administering a location for banners may limit the time each banner may hang. Any such time limit shall be applied without discrimination to all organizations, except that academic and administrative units may be given preference. The unit administering a banner location may require that the physical work of hanging the banners be performed only by employees of the University. Actual costs will be charged to the organization or unit making the request.

Signs in Other Designated Locations (Including Departmental Bulletin Boards)

Each academic or administrative unit may authorize the posting of signs in spaces that unit occupies and controls. Such authorization may be granted by general rule, by stamping or initialing individual signs, or by long-standing tradition. Signs in spaces occupied by academic or administrative units may be confined to bulletin boards or other designated locations;

subjected to viewpoint-neutral rules limiting the size of signs, limiting how long they may be posted, requiring each sign to show the date it was posted and the name of the person or organization who posted it, and similar rules designed to facilitate fair and equal opportunities to post signs; confined to official statements or business of the unit, or to certain subject matters of interest within the unit, or to signs posted by persons or organizations affiliated with the unit.

Each academic or administrative unit will post on or near each bulletin board or other designated location that it administers either the rules applicable to that bulletin board or location, or a particular office or website where the rules applicable to that bulletin board or location may be found; and if a stamp or initials are required on signs before they are posted on that bulletin board or location, the name and office location of the person whose stamp or initials are required. This notice will be posted in the upper left corner of each bulletin board or other designated location for posting signs, or conspicuously in another nearby location. If no such notice is posted, then the only applicable rules are those contained in this procedure.

Within the scope of the subject matters permitted on a particular bulletin board or other designated location, no academic or administrative unit will discriminate on the basis of the political, religious, philosophical, ideological, or academic viewpoint expressed on a sign. This Section does not apply to any enclosed bulletin board or display case that is accessible only to authorized personnel for official University business.

IV. Tables and Exhibits

University persons and University organizations may set up tables and exhibits from which to display literature, disseminate information and opinions, and raise funds, subject to the rules in the Policy, this Procedure and to the general rules in UTA HOP CO-UF-PO1. No advance permission is required, but is recommended to ensure space is available and not reserved for another entity or organization.  Those holding reservations will have priority. Polices for tabling intended for the purpose of fundraising and sales by a student organization may be found in the student organization handbook. 

Members of the public may not set up tables in the common outdoor areas or in the University’s limited public forum areas.

Subject to the restrictions elsewhere in this procedure, including the rules on disruption of other functions and interference with vehicular and pedestrian traffic, University persons and University organizations may set up tables in the common outdoor areas on the campus.  University persons and University organizations may set up tables in University buildings in any large, open, indoor location, subject to rules of the I&E. Each table must have a sign or literature that identifies the University person or organization sponsoring the table.

Tables are prohibited on bridges (except for the Center Bridge with advance approval from I&E), in parking lots, on streets, in any location that creates a fire hazard including any hallways less than 10 feet wide without the approval of EH&S, and within 25 feet of building entrances. Tables may not be set up inside any library, classroom, laboratory, performance hall, stadium, dining facility, lounges or office, or in any hallway less than ten feet wide, without permission from the academic or administrative unit that controls the space or from the faculty member or staff member who controls the space at a particular time. An academic or administrative unit may further specify these rules by restricting tables to reasonable locations in spaces occupied by that unit. Academic and administrative units are encouraged to clearly state any such rules in writing and to publish those rules on a web site or on a flyer or pamphlet conveniently available at the chief administrative office of the unit.

If any table is set up in a prohibited or disruptive location, any University employee pointing out the violation shall also point out other locations, as nearby as is reasonably possible, where the table is permitted. University persons and organizations sponsoring a table will remove litter from the area around the table before vacating the space.

Persons and organizations may supply their own tables or may contact the E. H. Hereford University Center Operations Office or the Office of Facilities Management for table rentals.

Exhibits

“General exhibit” means an object or collection of related objects, designed to stand on the ground or on a raised surface, which is not a table, is designed for temporary display, and is not permanently attached to the ground. An A-frame sign is an exhibit unless otherwise approved for posting under the Sign Implementation Policy

University units and organizations may erect exhibits subject to the rules in this section and to the general rules in this procedure. An application, and advance approval is required from the I&E except that an academic unit or administrative unit may authorize indoor exhibits in a space that it occupies and controls.

Criteria for Approval

I&E may authorize a proposed exhibit unless it finds that use of the proposed space for the exhibit must be disapproved under the criteria in HOP Policy CO-UF-PO7. I&E will specify the location of each exhibit to reduce the hazard to visually impaired pedestrians. I&E will advise each applicant how to correct, if possible, any conditions that preclude approval of their application. Even if an applicant is entitled to have its application approved as submitted, I&E may give advice about other possible locations, or about modifications to the exhibit, that would avoid potential problems or make the proposed exhibit more workable.

In locations administered by I&E, each exhibit may be displayed for fourteen days. The exhibit must be removed at the end of each day and may be re-erected each morning. However, I&E may authorize overnight exhibits. Any organization sponsoring an exhibit shall remove litter from the area around the exhibit at the end of each day.

Any person or organization sponsoring an exhibit assumes full responsibility for the exhibit, including all injuries or hazards that may arise from the exhibit. The University shall not be liable for any damage or theft that may occur to the exhibit (and any person or organization sponsoring the exhibit shall indemnify the University for any claims arising from the exhibit's presence on campus).

V. Amplified Sound

University persons, University organizations, and members of the public may use amplified sound on campus at designated times and locations, subject to the rules in this procedure. I&E’s permission is required at least three class days in advance of the event. This section creates limited exceptions to the general rule on disruption in this procedure.

Location and Times of Weekday Amplified Sound Areas

Library Mall. Designated boundaries of mall (bounded on the east side by the Central Library, on the west side by Cooper Street, on the south side by University Hall and on the north side by the Science Building). University persons and organizations may use amplified sound in this area from noon to 1:00 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

West Lawn of the Maverick Activities Center. Designated boundaries of lawn (the grassy area directly west of the Activities Building to the tennis courts). University persons and organizations may use amplified sound in this area from noon to 5:00 p.m.

University Center Mall. Designated boundaries of the mall (the sidewalk areas directly adjacent to the E. H. Hereford University Center). University persons and organizations may use amplified sound in this area from noon to 5:00 p.m. However, areas of the mall adjacent to academic buildings may be limited to noon to 1:00 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Nursing Park. Designated boundaries of the park (the area east of SEIR, south of W. Nedderman, north of Lot 47 and east of S. West street). University persons and organizations may use amplified sound in this area from noon to 5:00 p.m.

Brazos Park. Grass areas only. University persons and organizations may use amplified sound in this area from noon to 5:00 p.m.

Engineering Quadrangle.  Designated boundaries of mall (bounded on the north and east sides by the Engineering Research Building, on the west side by Nedderman Hall and on the south side by Engineering Lab Building.)  University persons and organizations may use amplified sound in this area from noon to 1:00 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

During the period of noon to 1:00 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, amplified sound may be requested in other areas of campus. Amplified sound may be used from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. in Doug Russell Park on any day. The Vice President of Campus Operations may designate additional areas for weekday use of amplified sound.

Regulation and Scheduling of Weekday Amplified Sound

I&E may prescribe rules concerning scheduling, sound levels, the location of speakers and direction in which they are pointed and other rules to facilitate the use of weekday amplified sound areas, to mediate any conflict with University functions and other nearby activities, and to manage environmental impact. All such rules must be reasonable and nondiscriminatory.

Persons or organizations wishing to use a weekday amplified sound area must reserve a particular area at a particular time. Reservations must be made at least three class days in advance with I&E using its Event Registration Process. I&E will approve a properly completed application to reserve an amplified sound area, unless the application must be disapproved under the criteria in UTA HOP CO-UF-PO7 or under rules promulgated by the Director under the authority of this section.  I&E may limit the number or frequency of reservations for each person or organization to ensure reasonable access for all persons and organizations desiring to use amplified sound on weekdays. Persons and organizations using amplified sound are responsible for maintaining a passageway for pedestrians that is adequate to the volume of pedestrian traffic passing through the area. Any designations of additional areas, any additional rules regulating the designated areas and the rules and procedures for reserving the right to use a designated area shall be clearly stated on a on a web site or on a flyer or pamphlet conveniently available from I&E.

Amplified Sound on Evenings and Weekends

With advance permission, University persons, University organizations, and members of the public may use amplified sound in any location in the common outdoor areas of campus, including the weekday amplified sound areas designated above, after 5:00 pm on weekdays, and after 10:00 am on weekends, and must be turned off by 11:00 pm.

The Director may prescribe reasonable and nondiscriminatory rules concerning scheduling, sound levels, the location of speakers and the direction in which they are pointed, and other rules to facilitate the use of amplified sound on evenings and weekends, to mediate any conflict with University functions and other nearby activities, and to manage environmental impact. I&E will advise each applicant how to correct, if possible, any conditions that preclude approval of its application. Even if an applicant is entitled to have its application approved as submitted, I&E may give advice about other possible locations, or about modifications to the proposed event, that would avoid potential problems or make the proposed event more workable.

Amplified Sound Indoors

University persons and University organizations may use amplified sound indoors. Amplified sound sufficient to be heard throughout the room may be used in any room in any building, but the Director may limit or prohibit sound that would be disruptive outside the room. Reservations may be required. Rules concerning use of University buildings and property are contained in HOP Policy series CO-UF.

VI.  Public Assemblies

 

Reservation of Space

University persons, University organizations, and members of the public may reserve a space to assemble in the common outdoor areas, as defined by this procedure. This is in addition to the amplified sound areas which are also available for reservation. University persons or organizations who wish to publicly assemble in a particular room or space at a particular time may reserve the room or space in accordance with HOP Policy CO-UF-PO7. Members of the public may reserve space by making a request to I&E.  Applications and requests for a reservation for such assemblies will be approved in compliance with this procedure. If the expected attendance at an assembly is fifty or more people, advance notice of no less than two weeks is encouraged.  Persons and organizations are encouraged to seek a reservation of a space that is suited to their assembly’s anticipated size.

Registered and recognized organizations (students, faculty, and staff) and academic or administrative units may reserve a space to assemble in the limited public forum areas, as defined by the Policy.

I&E will receive applications for reservations of a space within the Limited Public Forum areas.  Applications for a reservation for such assemblies will be processed under the provisions in HOP Policy CO-UF-PO7. Individual faculty, staff, and students may not reserve Limited Public Forum space for personal use. If the expected attendance at an event with a guest speaker is fifty or more people, advance notice of no less than two weeks is encouraged.

Any person or organization with a reservation has the right to the reserved room or space for the time covered by the reservation. Any person or organization using or occupying the room or space without a reservation must yield control of the room or space in time to permit any user with a reservation to begin using the room or space promptly at the beginning of its reserved time. Should the size of any assembly exceed the maximum number of participants that is safe for a given location, including a reserved space, assembly participants will be directed by campus authorities to relocate to a space that is better suited to the size of the assembly to the extent relocation is practicable. While reservations are not required, they are strongly encouraged. Without a reservation, a person or organization may find the facility locked or the space in use by another person or organization.

Notice and Consultation

Persons or organizations may publicly assemble on campus in any place where, at the time of the assembly, the persons assembling are permitted to be. While a reservation or notice is not required for the use common outdoor areas it is recommended members of the public provide notice to aid in avoiding conflicts with existing reservations. Persons or organizations that are planning a public assembly in a common outdoor area with or without a guest speaker and expected attendance of more than fifty participants, including potential counter-demonstrators, are encouraged to provide advance notice of no less than two weeks to I&E to help the University improve the safety and success of the expressive activity. If there is uncertainty about applicable University rules, the appropriateness of the planned location, or possible conflict with other events, persons and organizations are encouraged to consult the Director.

 

 

VII. Guest Speakers

 

Registered and sponsored organizations (students, faculty, and staff) and academic and administrative units may present guest speakers in the limited public forums of the campus. In the case of registered student organizations and sponsored student organizations, five class days advance notice to I&E is required. Registered faculty organizations are required to seek advance permission from the Provost. Registered staff organizations are required to seek advance permission from the Vice President of Human Resources. Individuals may not present a guest speaker in University buildings or University facilities.

Location and Form of Presentation

Subject to the rules in this procedure, including the applicable time, place, and manner rules, University persons, University organizations, and members of the public may utilize the common outdoor areas for guest speaker assemblies. A guest speaker may present a speech or performance, or lead a discussion of specified duration, at a time announced in advance, in a fixed indoor location approved by I&E.

A guest speaker may distribute literature indoors only immediately before, during, and immediately after the normal course of his or her speech, presentation, or performance, and only to persons in attendance. Only literature that complies with this procedure may be distributed.

Student, faculty, and staff organizations may not invite the public at large to events in University buildings or facilities. A guest speaker may not accost potential listeners who have not chosen to attend the speech, performance, or discussion; or help staff a table or exhibit set up outside the common outdoor areas or in the University buildings or facilities. No University person, University organization, or member of the public may present a guest speaker in violation of the prohibitions against solicitation in this procedure.

Application for University Building or Facility Space for Presentation of Guest Speakers

To present a guest speaker, organizations must follow the following process. A registered or sponsored student organization must follow the Campus Event Planning Process; a registered faculty organization must secure approval of the Provost; and a registered staff organization must secure approval of the Vice President of Human Resources. The organization that wishes to present a guest speaker must apply to the applicable approver through a process prescribed by their office, at least five class days before the scheduled event or any planned advertising for the event, whichever is earlier. The application will be combined with an application under HOP Policy CO-UF-PO7 to reserve the use of a University room or space for the event. The applicable approver will approve an application properly made under this section unless it must be disapproved under the criteria in HOP Policy CO-UF-PO7. To ensure proper safety precautions are considered, upon approval, the approving official will forward a copy of the approval to UTAPD.

Obligations of Presenting Organization

A University person or University organization that presents a guest speaker in a University building or facility must make clear that: the organization, and not the University, invited the speaker; the views expressed by the speaker are his or her own and do not necessarily represent the views of the University, The University of Texas System, or any System institution; and members of the general public are not invited to attend the guest speaker's presentation. The organization must be present at the time of the event.

Definitions

 

Included in the Policy.

 

Relevant Federal and State Statutes

 

Included in the Policy.

 

Relevant UT System and UTA Policies, Procedures, and Forms 

UTA Policy GA-PA-PO1 Free Speech, Expression, and Assembly Procedure

Regents’ Rules and Regulations, Rule 80101 – Category of Facilities and Authorized Users

Regents’ Rules and Regulations, Rule 80103 – Solicitation

Regents’ Rules and Regulations, Rule 40501 – Speech and Assembly

UTA HOP series CO-UF-PO – University Facilities

UTA HOP series SL-SO-PO – Student Organizations

Contact Information

Questions regarding this procedure should be directed to the office of the Vice President of Student Affairs.