Free Speech / Expressive Activity
As an institution of higher learning and a marketplace of ideas, J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College is committed to the free exchange of ideas and activities by its faculty, staff, and students. Reynolds Policy 1-38, Expressive Activity provides guidance on acceptable behavior, locations for expressive activity, as well as restricted behavior and activities. Policy 4-12, Solicitation on Campus also provides information for external groups and organizations that are interested in using the College facilities for events.
Below are some frequently asked questions regarding expressive activity and some of the College’s procedures related to expressive activities. For more information, please refer to the appropriate policies highlighted on this page.
What is expressive activity?
Expressive activities are speech-related activities, including
- other group events or activities by student organizations or their invited guests;
- distributions of literature; and
- any other activity protected by the First Amendment.
What kind of speech is protected by the First Amendment?
The U.S. Constitution protects most speech, with very limited exceptions. In outdoor spaces, the college may place reasonable limits only on the time, place, and, manner of your expressive activity, and those limits must not depend on the content or viewpoint of the expressive activity. In addition, for outdoor areas, students, student organizations, and their guests are not required to give notice before engaging in expressive activity. In other words, students, student organizations, employees, and guests may engage in spontaneous expressive activities as long as they do not engage in any of the conduct listed in the response to the following question.
What kind of actions related to protected speech can be regulated?
Most speech is protected by the Constitution, but sometimes, the actions that a speaker takes during an expressive activity are disruptive enough to allow a college to intervene, regardless of what is actually being expressed. For outdoor facilities and areas, students, student organizations, and their guests may freely engage in expressive activity as long as they do not also engage in any of the following:
- block access to campus buildings;
- obstruct traffic (vehicles or pedestrians);
- substantially disrupt previously scheduled campus events;
- substantially disrupt college operations or violate or hinder the rights of others;
- break the law; or
- create a threat to public safety, according to the college’s police or security department.
How can someone reserve campus facilities for speech activities?
Individuals seeking to have an event on campus must request space in accordance with policies 1-38 (students), or 4-12 (external groups). Spaces are reserved be on a first-come-first serve basis. The college can state in advance that certain spaces cannot be reserved for speech activities. Common examples include libraries, offices, hallways, and classrooms during instructional hours.
Requests for space should be made at least twenty-four (24) in advance. Reynolds does not require more than 24-hour advance notice unless the event requires additional planning to ensure safety and sufficient logistical support. You are encouraged to request the facility as soon as possible.
Reynolds does not consider the content or viewpoint of the expressive activity, or the possible reaction to the expressive activity. If a facility or space is generally available to be reserved, the college can refuse a reservation by a student, student organization, or employee only for the following reasons:
- The venue is an indoor facility that has been designated as unavailable for reservation.
- The venue is an indoor facility and the request is in conflict with any restrictions the college has placed on the facility.
- The venue has been reserved already at the time requested.
- The size of the anticipated crowd is too large for the space.
- The activity would substantially disrupt another event occurring in close proximity.
- The activity would substantially disrupt college operations.
- The activity is a clear and present threat to campus safety, according to Reynolds Police.
- The activity occurs during college exam periods.
- The activity is against the law.
Responsibility for the space
Anyone who reserves a facility or space is responsible for maintaining the space and will be responsible for any damages, cleaning costs, or other costs.
Is the college required to have indoor areas available for spontaneous expressive activities?
No. The college is not required to have an indoor area designated for spontaneous speech activities. However, if it chooses to create one or more, college officials must post that the area is available for students, student organizations, employees and guests to engage in expressive activities. The area must be available for all students, student organizations, employees, and guests equally, and not depend on the content or viewpoint of the expression or the possible reaction to it.
What do I do if someone or a group tries to disrupt my, my organization’s or invited guest’s speech?
To report a disruption of protected speech, contact the Office of Student Affairs at (804) 523-5296, or the Reynolds Police Department at 523-5219. In cases of emergencies, please call (804) 523-5911.
For more information (or additional questions), please contact the Office of Student Affairs at (804) 523-5296, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.