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Demonstrations and Protests by Students

The information provided on this Web page is to serve as a resource for individual students, student groups or registered student organizations at The University of Texas at Austin. Information for faculty and staff may be found in Chapter 13 of The University of Texas at Austin's Institutional Rules on Student Services and Activities and Information on Students' Rights and Responsibilities. Information included on this page will address information regarding campus public assemblies, demonstrations and protests. However, a consultation with Student Activities staff is strongly encouraged and welcomed.

Philosophy

Sec. 13–101. Freedom of Speech, Expression, and Assembly

(a) The freedoms of speech, expression, and assembly are fundamental rights of all persons and are central to the mission of the University. Students, faculty members, and staff members have the right to assemble, to speak, and to attempt to attract the attention of others, and corresponding rights to hear the speech of others when they choose to listen, and to ignore the speech of others when they choose not to listen.
(b) Students, faculty members, and staff members are free to express their views, individually or in organized groups, orally or in writing or by other symbols, on any topic, in all parts of the campus, subject only to rules necessary to preserve the equal rights of others and the other functions of the University. Teaching, research, and other official functions of the University will have priority in allocating the use of space on campus.

Dean of Students (DoS) - Student Activities comment to this Rule: Additionally, an approved reservation takes priority over spontaneous activities including but not limited to public assemblies, demonstrations or protests. The University will not negotiate with nor make commitments to protestors regarding their demands for the purpose of stopping protest activity.

Details of what freedom of speech, expressions and assembly privileges are afforded to students, faculty members and staff members can be found in Chapter 13 of The University of Texas at Austin's Institutional Rules on Student Services and Activities and Information on Students' Rights and Responsibilities.

Who

Sec. 13–101. Freedom of Speech, Expression, and Assembly

(b) Students, faculty members, and staff members are free to express their views, individually or in organized groups, orally or in writing or by other symbols, on any topic, in all parts of the campus, subject only to rules necessary to preserve the equal rights of others and the other functions of the University. Teaching, research, and other official functions of the University will have priority in allocating the use of space on campus.

Sec. 10–301. Identification

(a) Any person will identify himself or herself when asked to do so by an institutional representative while on any property or in any building owned or controlled by the University or The University of Texas System. A person identifies himself or herself by
(1) giving his or her name and complete address, substantiated by a current driver's license, voter registration card, or other official documentation; and
(2) stating truthfully whether he or she is a student or employee of the University or The University of Texas System.

DoS - Student Activities comment to this Rule: The privilege of free speech, expression and assembly on The University of Texas at Austin campus is only extended to students, faculty members and staff members, and is not extended to off-campus persons (e.g., Austin residents, UT alumni, etc.).1

Students, faculty members and staff members are encouraged to have their UT ID cards on their person to prove their right to participate.

Details of who has the privilege of freedom of speech, expressions and assembly can be found in Section 10-301 and Chapter 13 of The University of Texas at Austin's Institutional Rules on Student Services and Activities and Information on Students' Rights and Responsibilities.

1 See Bourgault v. Yudof, 05-10114 (5th Cir. 2005) and Widmar v. Vincent, 454 US 263 (1981).

What

The following topics are addressed in The University of Texas at Austin's Institutional Rules on Student Services and Activities and Information on Students' Rights and Responsibilities to clarify free speech, expression and assembly activity:

Amplified sound
Camping
Coercion
Disruption
Guest speakers
Harassment
Public Assemblies
Signs/posters/chalking

Amplified Sound

Sec. 13–801. General Rule on Amplified Sound

University academic or administrative units and registered student, faculty, or staff organizations may use amplified sound on campus at designated times and locations, subject to the rules in this subchapter and to the general rules in subchapter 13–200 and subchapter 13–300. Advance permission is required. This subchapter creates limited exceptions to the general rule on disruption in section 13–301.

DoS - Student Activities comment to this Rule: Sound is considered amplified when the volume is produced or increased by any electric, electronic, mechanical or motor-powered means. Amplified sound is permitted on weekdays from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. in seven areas on campus, with advance permission from the Student Activities area of the Office of the Dean of Students. The areas in which amplified sound may be used on weekdays include:

  • The West Mall Amplified Sound Area (11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.)
  • The Union Patio Amplified Sound Area (11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.)
  • The East Bus Circle Amplified Sound Area (8 a.m.-5 p.m.)
  • The Battle Oaks Amplified Sound Area (8 a.m.-5 p.m.)
  • The Mustangs Amplified Sound Area (8 a.m.-5 p.m.)
  • The San Jacinto Amplified Sound Area (8 a.m.-5 p.m.)
  • The LBJ Fountain Amplified Sound Area (8 a.m.-5 p.m.)

Weekdays after 5 p.m., University organizations2 may use amplified sound in any outdoor location, and after 8 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday with advance permission. Sunday-Thursday amplified sound must be turned off by midnight. If amplified sound use is approved Friday or Saturday evening, the sound must be turned off by 1 a.m.

Schedule an outdoor event consultation with Student Activities staff to discuss policies regarding the reservation of one of these locations for your event.

For more information regarding amplified sound, please refer to Section 13-800 of The University of Texas at Austin's Institutional Rules on Student Services and Activities and Information on Students' Rights and Responsibilities.

Camping

Camping is not allowed on The University of Texas at Austin campus for the reasons of maintaining a clean, aesthetically pleasing, healthy and safe work, educational and learning environment.

For more information regarding camping, please refer to HOP 2.A.8 of The University of Texas at Austin's Revised Handbook of Operating Procedures.

Coercion

Sec. 13–303. Coercing Attention

(a) No person may attempt to coerce, intimidate, or badger any other person into viewing, listening to, or accepting a copy of any communication.
(b) No person may persist in requesting or demanding the attention of any other person after that other person has attempted to walk away or has clearly refused to attend to the speaker's communication.

University of Texas at Austin's Institutional Rules on Student Services and Activities and Information on Students' Rights and Responsibilities.

Disruption

Sec. 13–301. Disruption

(a) Except as expressly authorized in section 13–802, or by an authorized University official responsible for a program or event sponsored by an academic or administrative unit, no speech, expression, or assembly may be conducted in a way that disrupts or interferes with any
(1) teaching, research, administration, or other authorized activities on the campus;
(2) free and unimpeded flow of pedestrian and vehicular traffic on the campus; or
(3) signs, tables, exhibits, public assemblies, distribution of literature, guest speakers, or use of amplified sound by another person or organization acting under the rules in this chapter.

For more information regarding disruption, please refer to Section 13-301 of The University of Texas at Austin's Institutional Rules on Student Services and Activities and Information on Students' Rights and Responsibilities.

Guest speakers

Sec. 13–1001. Definitions

"Guest speaker" means a speaker or performer who is not a student, faculty member, or staff member.

Sec. 13–1002. Who May Present

Registered student, sponsored student, faculty, and staff organizations and academic and administrative units may present guest speakers on University property. In the case of registered student organizations and sponsored student organizations, advance permission from the dean of students is required. Individuals may not present a guest speaker.

DoS - Student Activities comment to this Rule: Registered student organizations may present guest speakers who may make speeches, give performances or lead discussions in fixed indoor or outdoor locations on campus with approval from the Student Activities area of the Office of the Dean of Students. A guest speaker is a speaker or performer who is not a student, faculty member or staff member. In order to have a guest speaker at an event, advance permission from Student Activities is required.

Guest speakers may distribute literature to persons who attend the event, but not to others who have not chosen to attend the event. The guest speaker may not address potential listeners who have not chosen to attend the event. The guest speaker may not help staff a registered student organization's table or exhibit. Finally, a guest speaker may not solicit for her or his off-campus business, organization or service.

For more information regarding guest speakers, please refer to Section 13-1000 of The University of Texas at Austin's Institutional Rules on Student Services and Activities and Information on Students' Rights and Responsibilities.

Harassment

Sec. 13–204. Harassment

(a) No person will make, distribute, or display on the campus any statement that constitutes verbal harassment of any other person. This section applies to all speech on the campus, including speech that is part of teaching, research, or other official functions of the University.

DoS - Student Activities comment to this Rule: No person will make, distribute or display on the campus any statement that constitutes verbal harassment of any other person. This applies to all speech on the campus, including speech that is part of teaching, research or other official functions of the University. Harassment may consist of threats, insults, epithets, ridicule, personal attacks or the categories of harassing sexual speech and is often based on the victim's appearance, personal characteristics, or group membership, including but not limited to race, color, religion, national origin, gender, age, disability, citizenship, veteran status, sexual orientation, ideology, political views, or political affiliation. Harassment can consist of but is not limited to verbal harassment, nonverbal conduct, such as hazing, practical jokes, damage to property and physical assault.

For more information regarding harassment, please refer to Section 13-204 of The University of Texas at Austin's Institutional Rules on Student Services and Activities and Information on Students' Rights and Responsibilities.

Public Assemblies

Sec. 13–901. General Rule on Public Assemblies

(a) "Publicly assemble" and "public assembly" include any gathering of persons, including discussions, rallies, and demonstrations. The rules in subchapter 13–800 apply to any use of amplified sound at a public assembly.
(b) University persons and organizations may publicly assemble on campus in any place where, at the time of the assembly, the persons assembling are permitted to be. This right to assemble is subject to the rules in this subchapter, to the general rules in subchapter 13–200 and subchapter 13–300, and to the rules on use of University property in chapter 10 of the Institutional Rules. No advance permission is required.

DoS - Student Activities comment to this Rule: Public assemblies include any gathering of persons, including discussions, rallies, demonstrations and protests. UT Austin students, faculty and staff or registered student organizations and sponsored student organizations may publicly assemble on campus in any place where, at the time of the assembly, the persons assembling are permitted to be. Thus, public assemblies may not interfere with approved reservations.

A consultation with staff from Student Activities is encouraged. Student Activities can help make public assemblies successful. For example, Student Activities can:

  • suggest referrals to the University of Texas Police Department and Parking and Transportation Services to block off streets from vehicle traffic, or
  • share with assembly-organizers what space is already reserved by other campus entities.

Public assemblies are still subject to the Institutional Rules.

For more information regarding public assemblies, please refer to Section 13-900 of The University of Texas at Austin's Institutional Rules on Student Services and Activities and Information on Students' Rights and Responsibilities.

Signs/posters/chalking

Sec. 13–501. General Rule on Signs

(a) "Sign" means any method of displaying a visual message to others, except that transferring possession of a copy of the message is distribution of literature and not a sign.
(b) Subject to the rules in this subchapter and to the genera l rules in subchapter 13–200 and subchapter 13–300, a University person or organization may display a sign by holding or carrying it, by displaying it at a table (see subchapter 13–600), or by posting it on a kiosk, bulletin board, or other designated location. Signs may not be posted in any other location. Subject to viewpoint-neutral size requirements, the Division of Housing and Food Service has designated the window and door of a residence hall room as locations where the resident(s) of that room may post signs. Section 13–506 lists other designated locations.

Sec. 13–502. Hand-Held Signs

(a) Students, faculty members, and staff members may display a sign on campus by holding or carrying it by hand or otherwise attaching it to their person. No advance permission is required.
(b) Any person holding or carrying a sign will exercise due care to avoid bumping, hitting, or injuring any other person.
(c) Any person holding or carrying a sign at a speech, performance, or other event will exercise due care to avoid blocking the view of any other person observing the speech, performance, or event. Depending on the venue, this may mean that signs may be displayed only around the perimeter of a room or an audience.
(d) A law enforcement officer or the dean of students, or an usher or other University employee if authorized by officials responsible for managing the venue, may warn any person that his or her sign is being handled in violation of subsection 13–502(b) or subsection 13–502(c). If the violation persists after a clear warning, the law enforcement officer, dean of students, authorized usher, or other authorized employee may confiscate the sign.

DoS - Student Activities comment to this Rule: For safety reasons, the University of Texas at Austin does not permit signs with stakes attached, sometimes known as picket signs. Signs may not be posted in any other location. Any person holding or carrying a sign at a speech, performance or other event will exercise due care to avoid blocking the view of any other person observing the speech, performance or event. Depending on the venue, this may mean that signs may be displayed only around the perimeter of a room or an audience.

No speech, expression or assembly may be conducted in a way that damages, defaces, marks, discolors or alters in any way property of the University or of any person who has not authorized the speaker to damage or deface his or her property. This includes but is not limited to hanging or affixing signs to building, statues or trees on campus or chalking on campus property. Conversely, no person may damage, deface, mark, discolor, alter or interfere with any sign, table or exhibit posted or displayed by another person, registered student organization, sponsored student organization, or university academic or administrative unit.

For more information regarding signs, please refer to Sections 13-302, 13-400 and 13-500 of The University of Texas at Austin's Institutional Rules on Student Services and Activities and Information on Students' Rights and Responsibilities.

To carry out successful public assemblies, demonstrations or protests, we encourage students, student groups or registered student organizations and sponsored student organizations to contact Student Activities to schedule a consultation.

Where

Sec 10–201. Permission to Use

(a) University organizations may reserve the use of a room or space on University property for purposes permitted by the Regents' Rules and Regulations. Academic and administrative units of the University will have priority in reserving the use of rooms and spaces, except that they will not have priority in the use of weekday amplified sound areas defined in section 13–802 of the Institutional Rules. Registered student organizations and sponsored student organizations may not reserve the Main Plaza between 8:00 AM and 5:00 PM on weekdays. During that time it is reserved for University-sponsored events with approval of the vice president and for unscheduled uses.
(b) A University organization with a reservation has the right to the reserved room or space for the time covered by the reservation. Any University organization or faculty member, staff member, or student using or occupying the room or space without a reservation must yield control of the room or space in time to permit a University organization with a reservation to begin using the room or space promptly at the beginning of its reserved time.

DoS - Student Activities comment to this Rule: Approved reservations of space (e.g., class sessions, or space reservations through the Office of the Dean of Students) take priority over any spontaneous activity, including public assemblies, demonstrations or protests. If a space is not reserved nor currently occupied, the space may be used by a University organization2, faculty member, staff member or student without reservation, but must yield control of the space in time to permit the University organization with a reservation to begin using the space promptly at the beginning of its reserved time.

For safety and security reasons, buildings may not be occupied after the building or office has closed, except by authorized persons. Additionally, some on-campus space has restricted access. Some of these spaces include, but are not limited to, special use facilities (Texas Union and the Frank C. Erwin Jr. Special Events Center), facilities controlled by Texas Performing Arts, athletic facilities.

For more information regarding the use of campus space, please refer to Section 10-200 of The University of Texas at Austin's Institutional Rules on Student Services and Activities and Information on Students' Rights and Responsibilities.

2 "University organization" includes academic and administrative units and registered student, faculty and staff organizations.

When

Public assemblies, demonstrations and protests can take place on campus permitting the activities do not interfere with a current reservation. Participants should also consider amplified sound restrictions when planning to schedule such an activity.

Questions regarding free speech, expression and assembly on The University of Texas at Austin campus should be directed to the Student Activities area of the Office of the Dean of Students by telephone at 512-471-3065, e-mail at studentactivities@austin.utexas.edu or by visiting Student Services Building (SSB) 4.400.

Facts of particular situations may impact differing action. However, The University of Texas at Austin's Institutional Rules on Student Services and Activities and Information on Students' Rights and Responsibilities stand as the governing text.