Freedom of Expression Policy
Effective Date of Current Policy: August 7, 2015
Proposed Revised Version (below): April 10, 2017
Proposed Effective Date: May 10, 2017
Middle Georgia State University (MGA) respects and honors the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment, including the right to free speech, free expression, free exercise of religion, and the right to assemble peaceably. The University abides by Board of Regents Policy 12.10 on Freedom of Expression. MGA agrees with the University System of Georgia that these rights are of the utmost importance and are likewise committed to protecting those rights.
As a public institution of higher education, MGA promotes open ideas and academic freedom on our campuses. The policy that follows aims to promote campus safety, to ensure the proper functioning of the academic environment and institution activities, and to protect individual rights. It should not be used to unduly burden the free expression rights of any member of the University community.
The University community includes faculty, staff, students, administrators, recognized student organizations of the University, and guests thereof. Any parameters placed on the time, place, and manner of expression will not be based on the content of the expression.
I. GENERAL OVERVIEW
The purpose of this policy is to promote and facilitate the expression and to respect the constitutional rights of each member of the University community, while allowing the University to make arrangements that ensure that such activities do not interfere with the University’s mission and operations or with the rights of others.
To facilitate the free exchange of ideas, MGA has designated accessible, high-traffic locations on campus as “Public Forum Areas.” The designation of these areas shall not be used to prohibit members of the University community from engaging in communication elsewhere on campus.
II. PUBLIC FORUMS
- Outside Speakers: those not enrolled at or employed by MGA who are planning a gathering of any size on a university campus.
- Large Groups: members of the University community who are planning a gathering outside of class on campus of 30 or more persons for the purpose of expression and/or demonstration.
- Public Forum Areas: areas for expression and/or demonstration by outside speakers or large groups, marked on the map of each campus available on the website. The Public Forum Areas are generally available between 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday and when there are classes or events scheduled on campus on Fridays and weekends. Designated areas (click on each hyperlink below for a map including the public forum area on each campus):
- Cochran Campus: The lawn area west of the tennis courts (defined by sidewalks on three sides and the tennis stands).
- Dublin Campus: The grass area (inside the horseshoe shaped sidewalk) between the student center and the back parking lot.
- Eastman Campus: The grassed area bounded by the static airplane display south, airport road right of way east, and parking areas to north and west.
- Macon Campus: The lawn between the Education Building and the Library.
- Warner Robins Campus: The grass section of the circular drive in front of Oak Hall.
- Contact Office: Point of contact on each campus to whom requests for reservations must be submitted. The contact offices for each campus are as follows:
- Cochran Campus: Office of Student Affairs at (478) 934-3352.
- Dublin Campus: Student Life Coordinator at (478) 275-6768.
- Eastman Campus: Student Life Coordinator at (478) 448-4703.
- Macon Campus: Office of Student Affairs at (478) 757-7383.
- Warner Robins Campus: Student Life Coordinator at (478) 329-4741.
Outside speakers and large groups must reserve the use of a Public Forum Area by submitting a reservation to the offices designated on each campus, at least three university business days prior to the event, providing:
- date, time and location of the activity;
- description of the activity;
- whether sound amplification will be used;
- estimated number of attendees;
- the name and contact information for the person submitting the information; and
- acknowledgment of and agreement to comply with the time, place and manner restrictions in Section VII below.
III. OUTSIDE SPEAKERS
Individuals or groups who are not members of the University community may be permitted access to the Public Forum Areas provided they:
- submit a reservation request with all of the information required in Section II above to the Campus Director at least three university business days in advance of the event; and
- comply with all requirements set forth in this policy.
IV. LARGE GROUPS
A. Planned Gatherings
Members of the University community who are planning events or gatherings for the purpose of expression, and expect to draw a crowd of 30 or more persons, must submit a reservation request to the Division of Student Affairs at least three University business days in advance of the event.
B. Spontaneous Expression
If spontaneous expression draws a large group (30 or more persons), the Office of Student Affairs or the Campus Director will inform both the Office of Communications and University Police, so that they may ensure the safety of all involved and make any necessary announcements.
While members of the University community may engage in communication and expression anywhere on campus, the University reserves the right to have University Police ask groups that grow to more than 30 persons and/or are becoming disruptive to the learning environment or business operations of the university to relocate their demonstration or event to a designated Public Forum Area.
No matter the size of the group gathering, it is not necessary to reserve use of Public Forum Areas for purposes of immediate or spontaneous expression that is prompted, for instance, by news coming into public knowledge less than 48 hours prior to a demonstration.
Reservation requests from University community individuals or groups will be processed by the Division of Student Affairs within two University business days of submission. In the event multiple requests are in conflict, priority will be given to:
- First, official university sponsored events and activities;
- Second, events and activities organized by recognized student organizations; and
- Third, events and activities organized by individual members of the University community.
Reservation requests from Outside Speakers will be processed by the Campus Director or his/her designee within two University business days. In the event multiple requests are in conflict, priority will be given to:
- First, events organized by guests of University community; and
- Second, other outside speakers.
Reservations may be made by phone (to the contacts in Section II above) or by submitting a request through the online form.
Requests for reservations may be denied if:
- The online reservation form is not fully completed or the requestor does not provide all of the information listed in Section II above;
- The reservation form or information provided by phone includes a falsehood; OR
- The Public Forum Area is already reserved for the day and time requested.
VI. WRITTEN MATERIALS
Non-commercial pamphlets, handbills, circulars, newspapers, magazines and other written materials may be distributed on a person-to-person basis in open areas outside of buildings and other closed structures on the campuses. No stand, table or booth shall be used in distribution of such materials except with advance approval from the Office of Student Life on the individual campuses.
Commercial materials—those designed to introduce a specific product or service or to entice someone to buy that product or service—may not be distributed on a person-to-person basis inside or outside of buildings on any campus. Commercial speeches may not be delivered on the campuses unless multiple vendors are also present or have been given the same presentation opportunity.
VII. TIME, PLACE, MANNER RESTRICTIONS
Reasonable limitations may be placed on the time, place, and manner of speeches, demonstrations and distribution of written material in order to serve the interests of health and safety, prevent disruption of the educational process, and protect against the invasion of the rights of others. In order that persons exercising freedom of expression not interfere with the operation of the Campus or the rights of others, the following shall apply without exception to any form of expression and will be used to evaluate any plans requiring approval:
- Events may not obstruct vehicular, pedestrian, or other traffic into or out of the campus.
- Any use of amplified sound, other than amplified sound used in connection with University-sponsored events, must only be intended to be heard in the immediate area of the expression in order to minimize any disruption of the central academic mission of the University.
- There must be no obstruction of entrances or exits to buildings.
- There must be no interference with educational activities inside or outside the buildings.
- There must be no impediment of passersby or other disruptions of normal activities.
- There must be no interference with previously scheduled campus ceremonies, events, or activities.
- Organizers of such events must agree in advance to remove all signs or litter from the area at the end of the event. Failure to do so may result in organizers being held financially responsible for such clean-up.
- Organizers will be held financial responsible for any malicious or unwarranted damage or destruction of property owned or operated by the University, or property belonging to students, faculty, staff, or guests of the University.
Members of the University community engaging in expressive activity must not:
- Attract a crowd larger than the designated location can safely contain;
- Represent, in the opinion of University police, a threat to public safety;
- Light any material on fire, provided that hand-held candles may be used with special permission of the Office of Student Life. Other open flame devices and bonfires are strictly prohibited.
- Affix items to any permanent structure, such as fences, trees, etc.
Requests for reservations of Public Forum Areas may be denied only for the reasons set forth in this policy. A denied request may be appealed to University Counsel via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
VIII. MEDIA RELATIONS
Faculty and staff are encouraged to engage in thought leadership and to cooperate with the Vice President for Recruitment and Marketing in developing materials for release through the local news media. All public appearances and statements to the news media representing the institution shall be cleared through the Office of Marketing and Communications.