In accordance with law and policy, Howard College recognizes a student’s right to freedom of speech, peaceful assembly, petition and association. Students may not disrupt the operations of the college or interfere with the rights of others to exercise their constitutional freedoms. Students are expected to exercise these rights with respect for the college’s standards of conduct. Students and faculty alike should enable a climate of mutual respect and civility while fostering the freedom to debate and discuss the merits of competing ideas.
Expressive activity means the verbal or symbolic expression of an idea, thought or opinion and may include speeches, assembly, marches, parades, rallies, picketing, distribution of literature, graphic or pictorial displays and other similar activities intended to communicate an idea or opinion. Students and employees may engage in expressive activity on campus grounds during college business hours without the need for prior reservation or registration except as set out in this and other applicable college policies.
Expressive activity does not include speech that is likely to incite or produce imminent lawless action, expression that consists of fighting words, or threats of physical harm. Expressive activity may not create a vehicular or other safety hazard or constitute disruptive activity, defamation, riotous conduct or obscenity as those terms are defined by federal or state law and may not impede access to other expressive activity, such as blocking the audience’s view or preventing the audience from hearing a speaker. Displaying a sign, gesturing, wearing symbolic clothing or otherwise protesting silently is permissible anywhere unless it is a disruptive activity as defined by federal or state law.
College facilities and campus grounds may not be used by individuals or organizations not directly connected with the college except as permitted by this section.
Reservation of Campus Grounds for Expressive Activity
Campus grounds generally are open to students, employees and sponsoring organizations for expressive activity during college business hours. However, these individuals and organizations are encouraged to reserve areas on campus that are designated for expressive activity when the activity is promoted in advance or when the activity may reasonably be anticipated to draw a crowd of 25 or more people. Designated areas may be reserved on a first-come, first-serve basis and are subject to the reservation procedures published by the Judicial Officer and set out in this policy. Only the individuals or sponsoring organization that reserves a designated space may use the area for expressive activity during the reserved period. A reservation is required for use of amplified sound and/or outdoor structure. Sponsoring organizations are required to reserve a designated area for expressive activity by a sponsored guest. Only sponsoring organizations may invite sponsored guests to use campus grounds for expressive activity. A request to reserve space for use by a sponsored guest must be made no fewer than eight business days in advance of the sponsored activity.
In order to allow reasonable access to designated areas, students, employees and sponsoring organizations may reserve these locations a total of fifteen days and no more than five consecutive days. The Judicial Officer is responsible for administration of this policy, including:
- Identifying locations and establishing times for use as designated areas and identifying locations and establishing times for use of amplified sound;
- Managing requests for reservation of campus grounds under this policy;
- Relocating expressive activities as allowed under this policy;
- Developing procedures for reserving areas for expressive activity and use of amplified sound and for registering for parades, marches and rallies;
- Creating forms for use in reserving designated areas, using amplified sound, and registering for parades, marches and rallies; and
- Publishing the locations, times, procedures and forms required under this policy at the beginning of each academic year.
The Judicial Officer will act on requests to reserve designated areas and to register for a parade, march or rally no later than two business days after a properly submitted request is received. If a request is denied, the Judicial Officer will, where feasible, propose measures to address any defects in the request. When the basis for denial is receipt of an earlier request for the same location and time, the Judicial Officer will inform the individual or organization whose request is denied of other dates, times and locations that are available for reservation.
Advance reservation is required before amplified sound may be used on campus grounds (see Use of Amplification Equipment section of this handbook).
Reason for Denial of a Reservation/Permit
Requests to reserve a designated area, to use amplified sound, or to register a route for a parade, march or rally may not be denied based on the content of the proposed expressive activity. Requests may be denied only for the following reasons:
- An earlier request to reserve the same location and time has been made;
- The designated area or an adjacent area has been reserved for an official college function or the designated area is no longer suitable for use due to a conflict with a nearby official college function;
- The reservation or registration form is incomplete;
- The request exceeds more than fifteen days in a semester or is for more than five consecutive days;
- The proposed route of a march, parade or rally will cross space that has been reserved for an official college function or space that otherwise has been reserved in accordance with this policy or the proposed route will substantially interrupt the safe and orderly movement of traffic or create a safety hazard; or
- The request was submitted by an individual or organization that is not permitted to reserve space on campus under this policy.
Relocation of Expressive Activities
Individuals and organizations engaged in freedom of expression activities on campus may be required to relocate under the following circumstances:
- The location selected for the activity is inadequate for the purpose for which it will be used (either too close to buildings, not big enough for event, etc.);
- The activity substantially interferes with either vehicular or pedestrian traffic;
- The activity blocks the ingress or egress to buildings;
- The space is not available due to a prior reservation;
- The activity conflicts with a previously planned college activity;
- The activity creates a sustained or repeated noise.
- The activity presents an unreasonable danger to the health or safety of the applicant or other individuals.
- The activity is prohibited by local, state, or federal law; or
- The activity prevents fire protection, law enforcement, or emergency medical service providers from access to areas on campus.
Outdoor Exhibits and Structures
Outdoor exhibits and structures may be placed only in designated areas, except that individuals may place displays on easel-type supports on campus grounds that are open and accessible for expressive activity. Outdoor exhibits and structures are subject to the following limitations:
- May not exceed twenty-five feet in length or width or fifteen feet in height,
- May not extend into or onto any sidewalks or walkways in such a way as to interfere with pedestrian or vehicular traffic or otherwise present an unreasonable threat to public safety.
- The interior of three-dimensional structures or exhibits must be fully visible from at least one side of the exhibit or structure, and no exhibit or structure may provide opportunity for individuals to be completely secluded from view.
Exception to the dimension regulations shall be granted by the Judicial Officer upon a showing by the individual or organization seeking the exception that the exhibit will not present a safety hazard and will not interfere with pedestrian or vehicular traffic. Proof that the individual or organization has insurance to cover injury or damage to persons or property is not grounds for an exception to the dimension regulations.
Subject to Discipline
Students engaged in expressive activities may be subject to discipline under the Student Standards of Conduct & Disciplinary Policy for the following actions:
- Activities that are illegal.
- Activities that deny the rights of other students, faculty, and staff of the college.
- Activities that substantially obstruct or restrict the free movement of persons on any part of the college campus, including the free entry or exit from college facilities.
- Activities that deny the use of office or other facilities to students, faculty, staff or guests of the college.
- Activities that threaten or endanger the health or safety of any person on the college campus.
- Activities that include the use of obscenities, libelous statements, or “fighting words” as defined by law;
- Activities that result in damage to or destruction of college property; and
- Activities that attempt to prevent a college event or other lawful assembly by the threat of use of force or violence.
Responsibilities of Decisions Related to Expressive Activity
Sponsoring organizations are responsible for ensuring that sponsored guests read and understand all obligations set out in this and all other applicable college policies. Members of the college community may be held individually responsible and sponsoring organizations may be held collectively accountable for any violations of college policies.
Sponsored guests who do not comply with this or other applicable college policies automatically forfeit their reservations and must immediately vacate college property. Repeat violations of this policy by a sponsored guest may result in loss of privilege for the sponsored guests as determined by the Judicial Officer.
Appeal of Decisions Related to Expressive Activity
Students, employees and organizations whose requests for use of campus grounds for expressive activity are denied may appeal the decision to the Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs.
The appeal must be made in writing and state the specific reason(s) the individual or organization disagrees with the decision. The appeal should include all information the individual or organization believes will assist the Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs decide the matter.
The Vice President for Student Affairs will issue a decision on the appeal within three business days of its receipt. The decision is final.