What are the policies for protests held at local universities?

Public colleges can be a choice location for protests and rallies, since they're required to honor the First Amendment with freedom of speech, even if the views are unpopular.

Following the violent events in the college town of Charlottesville, Virginia, where 32-year-old Heather Heyer was killed in a car attack after a protest involving white nationalists, university campuses are gearing up for the possibility of more unrest.

On Monday, Texas A&M University canceled an event planned for Sept. 11 where white nationalist, Richard Spencer, was set to make an appearance. Spencer was the lead speaker at the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville.

Texas A&M cited safety concerns and pointed out, they'd allowed Spencer to speak in December. However, the campus now requires a university-sanctioned group to sponsor a protest or event, and no group had done so for the event planned for September.

The University of Florida also blocked Spencer's request to appear on campus for a Sept. 12 event and cited the violence in Charlottesville and social media posts stating, “The Next Battlefield is in Florida.”

The Sacramento region is home to both UC Davis and California State University, Sacramento. 

The UC President and the Sacramento State President recently issued statements about Charlottesville, condemning the violence that occurred, while promoting diversity and tolerance. But, if a group wanted to host an unpopular event at either of the local universities, school officials would likely have to oblige due to to First Amendment rights. However, both campuses have policies in place which lay out restrictions and rules for any planned speeches or events.

Here's a look at the two university's policies on free-speech activities.

Sacramento State Policy:

The university policy on speech and speech-related activities permits "the fullest expression of beliefs through any means, including protest and demonstration, that do not incite or promote illegal activity or disrupt the educational process."

At Sacramento State, a group or individual planning a free speech activity must obtain a reservations permit so the time and place of the event doesn't conflict with another campus-sponsored event, classes, athletic practices or the operation of the campus. A march or demonstration also can't block traffic or violate any safety codes set by the fire marshal.

A protest or rally must follow the time and date issued by the university. Groups and individuals affiliated with the university are allowed to ask for an event to be held at any time, while outside groups are limited to normal operating hours. Demonstrations are not allowed inside parking lots and structures, inside university buildings, and near any location in which instructional, educational, and/or official business activities are being conducted, generally within 20 feet.

Student organizations are allowed to invite non-university guest speakers, regardless of their views, and the university takes responsibility to make sure the speaker's rights are protected. The university doesn't have to be in line with the speaker's message but should give disagreeing groups the opportunity to express their opposition.

Individuals and student groups that haven't qualified as registered student organizations are not allowed to invite guest speakers on to campus.

There has to be guidelines set before an event where there's a written agreement with the guest speaker, safety issues are brought to the attention of campus police, costs are discussed and parking and transportation are addressed.

Sacramento State's free-speech activities policy handbook also states:

"The University may determine to not allow the speaker (or terminate a speech) if the speaker advocates or it reasonably appears that the speaker will advocate: 

a. Violent overthrow of the government;

b. Willful destruction or seizure of campus buildings or other property; 

c. Disruptions or impairment by force of the campus’s regularly scheduled classes or other educational functions; 

d. Physical harm, coercion, or intimidation, or other invasion of lawful rights of campus officials, faculty or students; or 

e. Other campus disorder of a violent nature. 

If members of a student organization feel a decision to refuse a guest speaker denies their rights, they can file an appeal with the Vice President for Student Affairs or designee.

The Sacramento State Speech and Speech-Related Activities policy handbook is available HERE.

UC Davis Policy:

Similar to Sacramento State, UC Davis asserts, "All members of the University community have the right to express and debate their views, to voice criticism of existing practices and policies, and to protest against laws, policies, actions, and opinions with which they disagree."

The university ensures that freedom of speech is protected during any meeting or event regardless of the content of views, unless it pertains to harassment, violence or breaking the law.

Just like Sacramento State, UC Davis also makes sure an event won't disrupt classes and operations on campus. A demonstration also can't block traffic for vehicles or pedestrians or interfere with property entrances and safety codes.

Groups and individuals not affiliated with the university are allowed to use university property by submitting an application for a reservation with a $105 fee. Rates to reserve a date and time for an event on campus for groups affiliated with the school are given a "community rate", lower the full cost to outside groups.

Campus officials have restrictions on what type of non-university affiliated groups can apply and include academic groups, government agencies and charitable groups whose purpose is viewed as compatible with the University’s public service mission.

Outside guest speakers are allowed for events only if invited by UCD departments and organizations.

If a group sponsors an event, they're responsible for arranging security, ticket sales and anything else specified during the reservation process.

"Failure of the sponsor to comply with University regulations may result in cancellation of the event, denial of future requests to use University properties, disciplinary action, administrative charges, or suspension or revocation of registered organization status."

Before issuing a reservation for an event, campus officials discuss whether or not the university has the capacity to hold the event and what expenses beyond the normal operation of the campus would need to be factored in for the group to pay.

Click HERE for the UC Davis policy manual for property use of extracurricular activities.

© 2017 KXTV-TV


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