1.3.3 Freedom of Expression Policy

1.3.3

Freedom of Expression Policy

New Policy Proposed: July 8, 2015

Effective Date: August 7, 2015

Minor Revisions (Campus points of contact): September 7, 2016

Middle Georgia State University supports rights of individuals provided in the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and the right to assemble peaceably. The University remains firmly committed to affording every member of the University community the opportunity to engage in peaceful and orderly protests and demonstrations, which do not disrupt the operation of the University. The University community includes faculty, staff, students, administrators, and recognized student organizations of the University.

Expression opportunities must be provided on an equal basis and adhere to the basic principle of the University being neutral to the content of any expression or public demonstration. The purpose of this policy is to promote and facilitate student expression and to respect students’ constitutional rights while allowing the University to make any arrangements that ensure that such activities do not interfere with the University’s mission and operations or with the rights of others.

In order to achieve this objective, the University may regulate the time, place, and manner of expression. Through such regulation, the University can assure equal opportunity for all persons, preserve order within the University community, protect and preserve University property, and provide a secure environment to the individuals exercising freedom of expression.

I. UNIVERSITY-AFFILIATED SPEAKERS

A. Reserving Campus Locations for Expression: 

  1. The University has designated “Free Expression Areas” on each campus, and these areas are the only areas that may be used for expression. Members of the University community who seek to reserve the use of these publicly accessible areas on any campus should contact the offices listed below at least 48 hours prior to the event and provide, in writing:
  • 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 requirements in Section I.C. below.
  1. Reservation requests will be processed by the Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs or his/her designee within 24 hours of submission. In the event multiple requests are in conflict, priority will be given to:
  • official university sponsored events and activities;
  • recognized student organizations, events, and activities;
  • student events and activities;
  • all other University community events and activities; and
  • non-university affiliated speakers reserving one of the Free Expression Areas outlined in I.C.

The request may be denied only for the reasons set for in the Provisions section below. A denied request may be appealed to the Vice President for Student Affairs.

B. Spontaneous Expression

To accommodate the need for immediate and spontaneous demonstration and to better facilitate the free exchange of ideas, the University’s Free Expression Areas also may be used for unscheduled expression by members of the University community. It is not necessary to reserve use of these 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.

C. Free Expression Areas

The contact offices for each campus are listed below. The Free Expression Areas are generally available between 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. Should use of these areas on a given day conflict with or disrupt other events previously scheduled for use of those areas, the university  reserves the right to direct users to another area deemed suitable by the University.

  • Cochran Campus: The lawn area west of the tennis courts (defined by sidewalks on three sides and the tennis stands). Contact Office of Student Affairs at (478) 934-3352.
  • Dublin Campus: The grass area (inside the horseshoe shaped sidewalk) between the student center and the back parking lot. Contact the Student Life Coordinator at (478) 275-6768.
  • 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. Contact the Student Life Coordinator at (478) 448-4703.
  • Macon Campus: The lawn between the Education Building and the Library. Contact Office of Student Affairs at (478) 757-7383.
  • Warner Robins Campus: The grass section of the circular drive in front of Oak Hall. Contact the Student Life Coordinator at (478) 329-4741.

D. Distribution of Written Material

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.

E. Time, Place and 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.

  1. Events may not obstruct vehicular, pedestrian, or other traffic into or out of the campus.
  2. Use of sound amplification must not be considered excessive or disruptive to other campus activities or to off-campus neighbors, as determined by University police.
  3. There must be no obstruction of entrances or exits to buildings.
  4. There must be no interference with educational activities inside or outside the buildings.
  5. There must be no impediment of passersby or other disruptions of normal activities.
  6. There must be no interference with previously scheduled campus ceremonies, events, or activities.
  7. 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.
  8. 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:

  1. Attract a crowd larger than the designated location can safely contain;
  2. Represent, in the opinion of University police, a threat to public safety;
  3. 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.
  4. Affix items to any permanent structure, such as fences, trees, etc.

II. NON UNIVERSITY-AFFILIATED SPEAKERS

Individuals or groups who are not members of the University community may be permitted access to the “Free Expression Areas” provided they:

  • submit a reservation request with all of the information required in AI above to the Campus Director at least 4 business days in advance; and
  • comply with all requirements set forth in this policy.

Reservation requests will be processed by the Campus Director or his/her designee within 2 business days. In the event multiple requests are in conflict, priority will be given to:

  • official university sponsored events and activities;
  • recognized student organizations, events, and activities;
  • student events and activities;
  • all other University community events and activities; and
  • non-university affiliated speakers reserving one of the Free Expression Areas outlined in I.C.

The request may be denied only for the reasons set forth in this policy. A denied request from a third-party may be appealed to University Counsel and Campus Affairs.