Free Speech Guide

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What is a free speech activity? These are activities where students can organize and convey a message. Some examples include: signs and banners that are constructed of soft material; distribution of literature; silent or symbolic protest including wearing of significant clothing, gesturing, displaying a sign, or otherwise protesting noiselessly; rally in designated public spaces such as Red Square; or picket lines. The Student Activities Office is a source for additional information and advice. When students engage in such protected activity, representatives of the college will engage with participating students to listen, discuss, or respond to the issues raised.

What is the difference between protected speech and unprotected speech? The law is very clear: public colleges like Evergreen may not regulate speech or assembly based on the content of the speech. This protection means that members of the Evergreen community can engage in expressive activity on a variety of subjects, including current events or to critique the college. Expression that constitutes a genuine threat or harassment, incites imminent violence, unjustifiably invades substantial privacy or confidentiality interests, falsely defames a specific individual, drowns out others engaging in protected speech, or that disrupts college operations and activities (PDF) is not protected by the First Amendment.

What about time, place and manner? Determining the location, time, and duration of your activity is important. With these details in mind, attendees can plan for their basic needs. If you would like your group to stay in a specific location, for example the designated public forum of Red Square, make that clear to attendees. The Student Activities Office can help you identify and reserve a wide range of spaces. Free expression can be exercised in appropriate open and designated public forums. Remember that offices and interiors of buildings are regulated space and are not considered public forums for free expression activities and not all locations on campus are open for expressive activities. Some locations will not be open depending on the time (e.g. speech cannot be used to disrupt other activities and events such as classes that are in session).

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