Policy Manual

Freedom of Expression Policy

Policy Statement

Georgia College & State University (“Georgia College”) celebrates Free Speech and is committed to respecting the First Amendment rights of all individuals, including freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and the right to assemble peaceably. Georgia College also recognizes its responsibility to provide a secure learning environment that allows individuals enrolled at or employed by Georgia College (“members of the Georgia College community”) to express their views in ways that do not disrupt the operation of the institution. This policy in no way prohibits members of the Georgia College community from engaging in conversations on campus and does not apply to College or University-sponsored activities, but rather only establishes a designated public forum on Georgia College’s campus and sets forth requirements for use and reservation of the forum in limited circumstances.

Definitions

The following definition(s) apply to the terms as used in this Policy:

Large Groups

Members of the Georgia College community who plan to engage in expressive activity on campus in a group that is expected to consist of 30 or more persons.

Keywords

Forum Reservation

Free Speech

Freedom of Expression

Groups

Meetings

Public Forum

Protests

Reason for the Policy

The purpose of this Policy is to promote and affirm the freedoms of speech, expression, and assembly, while addressing content-neutral time, place, and manner restrictions. Individuals have the right to peaceably assemble, speak, and hear the speech of others when they choose to listen, and to ignore the speech of others when they choose not to listen.

Proposed Outcome

The Policy seeks to establish a designated, limited public forum on the Georgia College campus.

Applicability of the Policy

This Policy applies to all students, faculty, staff, and their registered organizations, as well as all other persons and groups. Due to practical administrative realities, this policy does not apply to University agents and employees when they are acting in the course and scope of their agency or employment.

Related Policies

Georgia College Facility Use Policy

Georgia College Open Flame Policy

Georgia College Posting of Signs for Campus Organizations, Departments, Events Guidelines

Georgia College Tobacco and Smoke-Free Campus Policy

Georgia College Trespass Policy

Board of Regents Freedom of Expression Policy

Board of Regents Use of Institution Names, Symbols, and Trademarks Policy

Board of Regents Weapons Policy

Procedures

  1. Designation of Public Forums on Georgia College’s Campus
  2. To better facilitate the free exchange of ideas, Georgia College has designated the Georgia College Flagpole Plaza at the east end of the Georgia College Front Lawn (the area on and immediately surrounding the circular concrete pad that holds the University flagpole and Olympic column) as a public forum on Georgia College’s campus (“Public Forum Area”). The Public Forum Area is generally available from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, provided that the Public Forum Area has not previously been reserved. Reservations will only be processed on days that Georgia College’s Administrative Offices are open for business (“institution business days”). Though reservations to use the Public Forum Area are only required as set forth in Section II below, Georgia College recommends that all parties interested in using the Public Forum Area submit a completed Forum Reservation Request Form to Georgia College’s Department of Campus Life prior to use so that Georgia College may minimize scheduling conflicts, accommodate all interested users, and provide for campus safety and security.
  1. Provisions for Members of the Georgia College Community
  2. All large groups must submit a completed Forum Reservation Request Form to Georgia College’s Department of Campus Life two (2) institution business days prior to the scheduled activity and must receive approval in writing from the Director of Campus Life prior to engaging in such activity. Prior notice is required to ensure that there is sufficient space for the large group event, that necessary institution resources are available for crowd control and security, and that the academic and other operations of the institution are not disrupted. The Director of Campus Life may grant a reservation for the Public Forum Area or another available area of campus, as requested by the applicant, and may only deny a reservation for the limited reasons set forth in Section IV - B below.  
  1. If an individual or small group of individuals within the Georgia College community, while engaging in spontaneous expression, attracts a group of 30 or more persons, then a representative from the group should provide Georgia College with as much notice as circumstances reasonably permit. Georgia College reserves the right to direct a group of 30 or more persons to the Public Forum Area or another available area of campus in order to ensure the safety of campus members, to provide for proper crowd control, and to limit disruption of the academic and other operations of the institution. When relocating expression, the Georgia College official must not consider or impose restrictions based on the content or viewpoint of the expression.

III. Provisions for Non-Campus Members

  1. Individuals or groups of persons who are not enrolled at or employed by Georgia College may only engage in expressive activity on Georgia College’s campus in the Public Forum Area and only after submitting a completed Public Forum Reservation Request form to Georgia College’s Department of Campus Life at least two institution business days prior to the scheduled speech and obtaining approval for such use in writing from the Director of Campus Life pursuant to the procedures set forth in Section VI below. Organizers are encouraged to submit their requests as early in the planning stages of the event as possible. This provision does not apply to any classroom instruction or institution-sponsored events. 

IV. Procedures for Forum Reservation Requests

  1. Completed the Public Forum Reservation Request Form should be submitted to Georgia College’s Department of Campus Life in person or by email to campuslife@gcsu.edu, no later than two (2) institution business days prior to the scheduled forum event. Reservation scheduling will be coordinated by the Director of Campus Life, who will schedule forums for expression on a first-come, first-served basis. The Director of Campus Life must respond to all requests in writing as soon as practicable, but in no event more than two (2) institution business days following receipt of the request, either authorizing the reservation and noting any special instructions, if applicable, or setting forth the reason for denial of the reservation.
  1. The Director of Campus Life may only deny a reservation request for one of the following reasons:
    1. The Forum Reservation Request Form is not fully completed;
    2. The Forum Reservation Request Form contains a material falsehood or misrepresentation;
    3. The Public Forum Areas have been reserved by persons who previously submitted a completed Forum Reservation Request Form(s), in which case the institution must provide a reservation for the applicant at an alternate location, alternate date, or alternate time;
    4. The use or activity intended by the applicant would conflict with or disturb previously planned programs organized and conducted by the institution;
    5. The Public Forum Area is not large enough to accommodate the expected or actual number of persons engaging in large group expression, in which case the institution must provide a reservation for the applicant at an alternate location that can safely accommodate the applicant provided that the applicant is a member of the Georgia College community and that such a location exists on Georgia College’s campus;
    6. The use or activity intended by the applicant would present a danger to the health or safety of the applicant, other members of the Georgia College community, or the public; or
    7. The use or activity intended by the applicant is prohibited by law, Georgia College policy, or Board of Regents policy.
    8. When assessing a reservation request, the Director of Campus Life must not consider or impose restrictions based on the content or viewpoint of the expression.
    9. Appeals
      1. Appeals related to the decision of the Director of Campus Life should be made in writing to Georgia College’s Vice President for Student Affairs. Georgia College’s Vice President for Student Affairs or his or her designee must decide all appeals within two (2) institution business day. The decision of Georgia College’s Vice President for Student Affairs or his or her designee is final.
      2. All campus reservations are subject to the general provisions in Section VI. below.
  1. Distribution of Written Material
  2. Members of the Georgia College community may distribute non-commercial pamphlets, handbills, circulars, newspapers, magazines, and other written materials on a person-to-person basis in open outdoor areas of the campus, in line with the Georgia College Posting of Signs for Campus Organizations, Departments, Events Guidelines.
  3.  An individual who is not a member of the Georgia College community may only distribute written materials within the Public Forum Area and only during the time in which the individual has reserved Public Forum Area.

VI. General Provisions

  1. In addition to the requirements set forth above, all individuals expressing themselves on Georgia College’s campus must comply with the following provisions:
    1. No interference with the free flow of vehicular or pedestrian traffic, including the ingress and egress to buildings on campus, is permitted.
    2. No interruption of the orderly conduct of classroom instruction or other institution activities is permitted.
    3. Buildings, grounds, institution property, and property belonging to others may not be defaced, damaged, or destroyed and persons responsible for destruction of property may be held financially, legally, or criminally liable.  
    4. Persons expressing themselves on Georgia College’s campus must comply with all applicable federal, state, and local laws and ordinances; Georgia College policies, rules, and regulations; and Board of Regents policies.
    5. Authorization of a speech, event, or demonstration is contingent upon compliance with the criteria listed above. Speakers and/or organizations failing to comply with the above policy may be asked to leave, a trespass warning may be issued, and/or College disciplinary action or judicial action may be pursued.
  1. Non-Compliance
  2. Failure to comply with the requirements of this policy may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination or expulsion in accordance with relevant University policies and may result in prosecution in accordance with state and federal law.
  1. Freedom of Expression Policy Questions
  2. Questions about this policy may be addressed to the Department of Campus Life at 478.445.1473 or campuslife@gcsu.edu, or the Office of Legal Affairs at 478.445.2037 or legal@gcsu.edu.

Creation Date:   March 2017

Revision Date: June 2018

Last Reviewed Date: June 2018

Next Review Date: May 2020

Responsible Department:   Office of Legal Affairs

Cabinet Approval Date: July 2018

Effective Date: July 2018