Frequently Asked Questions

The Office of the Dean of Students is available to assist students with questions or concerns about the Freedom of Expression policy at UGA.

Contact us at 706-542-7774 by clicking on the mobile icon above.

You can consult the UGA Freedom of Expression Policy or simply contact the Dean of Students Office, 706-542-7774.  The staff will be able to hear your ideas and then guide you through how and where you can host your event.     

Contact the Dean of Students Office (706-542-7774) and indicate you want to reserve space to conduct a protest.  A member of the Dean of Students’ staff will work with you to complete the process and provide you with a Reservation Confirmation.   

Visitors who wish to engage in expressive activity on UGA’s campus can do so by making a reservation to speak in one of UGA’s designated forums, located in the center of campus (See section IV of UGA’s Freedom of Expression Policy). Visitors are generally not permitted to engage in expressive activity outside of these designated forums. However, student organizations, faculty, or university units can invite visitors not otherwise affiliated with UGA to participate in expressive activity at any location that the inviting student(s), faculty, or staff could speakThe inviting student(s), faculty, or staff remain responsible for the invited visitor’s conduct under the Freedom of Expression Policy.

“University Community” means any of the following: (i) any persons enrolled at or employed by the University including University students, faculty, staff, administrators, and employees, (ii) University colleges, schools, departments, units, registered University student organizations, and recognized cooperative organizations, and (iii) invited guests of any party listed in the foregoing (i) and (ii) provided such guests are in the company of the inviting party. In the case of invited guests, the inviting party remains responsible to the University under this Policy and other applicable University policies for the guest’s conduct. 

Non-University Affiliated Speakers means any individual or group who is not a member of the University Community.  Individuals in this category are only able to reserve one of the three “Designated Forums, though they may also be invited guests of members of the University Community. 

Yes, in accordance with the Freedom of Expression Policy and the Campus Solicitation Policy. If you are a member of the University Community, non-commercial pamphlets, handbills, circulars, newspapers, magazines and other written materials may be distributed on a person-to-person basis only in outdoor, publicly accessible areas of campus. The Campus Solicitation Policy covers the distribution of commercial materials and publications.

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution protects the freedom of religion, speech, of the press, and of the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the Government for the redress of grievances.  The First Amendment protects unpopular speech with the same force as it protects speech that is celebrated and widely accepted. 

Freedom of speech includes the right:
  • Not to speak.
    -See, for example, West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943), holding that students cannot be compelled to salute the flag.
  • To engage in nonverbal expressive activity.
    -See, for example, Tinker v. Des Moines, 393 U.S. 503 (1969), ruling in favor of students who wore black armbands to school to protest the Vietnam War.
  • To engage in symbolic speech, (e.g., burning the flag in protest).
    Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397 (1989); United States v. Eichman, 496 U.S. 310 (1990).
  • To use certain offensive words and phrases to convey political messages.
    Cohen v. California, 403 U.S. 15 (1971).
Freedom of speech does not protect the following kinds of speech (these are particular legal concepts, so may not have the same meaning you would apply to them in ordinary conversation):
  • Obscenity
  • “Fighting words” (“a direct personal insult directed at a specific person”)
  • Defamation (libel and slander)
  • Child pornography
  • Blackmail
  • Incitement to imminent lawless action
  • “True threats”
  • Solicitation to commit crimes
  • Plagiarism of copyrighted material

(Source: https://www.uscourts.gov/about-federal-courts/educational-resources/about-educational-outreach/activity-resources/what-does )

No rights are more highly regarded at the University of Georgia than the First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and expression and the right to assemble peaceably. Such opportunities must be provided on an equal basis and adhere to the basic principle of the University’s being neutral to the content and viewpoint of any expression.    

The Designated Forums are centrally-located, highly-trafficked areas that are particularly well-suited for expressive activity, including speeches and demonstrations. Members of the University Community may use the Designated Forums to engage in expressive activity between 8:00 am and 9:00 pm, Monday through Friday, provided that such Designated Forum has not already been reserved for the time in question, including by a Non-University Affiliated Speaker. Although it is not necessary for members of the University Community to request a reservation for use of the Designated Forums for the purposes of expression, the University encourages all parties to notify the Associate Dean of Students for scheduling purposes in order to minimize reservation conflicts and best accommodate all interested users. Expressive activity within a Designated Forum must comply with the time, place, and manner regulations set forth in the University’s Freedom of Expression Policy.

Hate speech is speech that offends, threatens, or insults individuals or groups on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, or other traits. Contrary to popular belief, hate speech is not itself an unprotected category of speech under the First Amendment. An individual could say something that constitutes hate speech and also constitutes unprotected speech (a “true threat” for instance), but an individual could also say something that constitutes hate speech and is protected under the First Amendment. As a result, hate speech is not often used as a category in policies addressing the First Amendment. 

When assessing a reservation request or when informed of spontaneous expressive activities conducted in compliance with this Policy, University personnel shall not consider the content or viewpoint of the expression or the possible reaction to that expression other than as permitted by law. University personnel may not impose restrictions on individuals or organizations engaged in expressive activities due to the content or viewpoint of their expression or the possible reaction to that expression other than as permitted by law.    

No. UGA’s Freedom of Expression Policy designates the outdoor, publicly accessible areas of campus as a limited public forum for the use of the University Community. Note: University streets and sidewalks are not included.   

No. The University of Georgia must remain content and viewpoint neutral in the consideration of all expressive activities.  The University can provide content-neutral time, place, and manner requirements to expressive activities occurring on campus.   

The Constitution prohibits UGA, as a public institution, from banning or punishing speech based on its content or viewpoint. Because campus policy permits Registered Student Organizations to invite speakers and provides access to campus venues for that purpose, UGA cannot take away the right or withdraw the resources due to the views of the speaker. Doing so would violate the First Amendment rights of the student group.    

Further, once a speaker has been invited, the campus is obligated and committed to acting reasonably to ensure that the speaker is able to safely and effectively address his or her audience, free from violence or disruption, as afforded to them by the First Amendment.     

No, freedom of speech does not give someone the right to drown out the words and speech of others.     

Information regarding UGA’s Freedom of Expression is provided in the Student Handbook.  Further, an annual email is sent to the University community, providing information on the policy and the university’s commitment and responsibility in upholding the principles of the First Amendment.