Freedom of Expression

UofL supports creative, thoughtful, and respectful discourse where conflicting perspectives are vigorously debated and thoroughly discussed. UofL is dedicated to affording all members of the UofL community the protections for free speech, expression, assembly, religion, and press available under the U.S. and Kentucky constitutions and all applicable federal and state laws, in accordance with the University's purpose and function except insofar as limitations on those freedoms are necessary to UofL's functioning.

Your Voice: Expressing Disagreement

Before An Event
  1. Social Media - Start talking about what's going on and begin to build support and/or discussion around your ideas and/or opposition to the proposed event.
  2. Student Organizations - Review a list of student organizations on EngageUofL and reach out to those organizations you believe would have an interest in the topic. Having many groups with one voice strengthens your position and can lead to greater influence around the important topic.
  3. SGA Senate - Consider contacting your SGA Elected Official to encourage your representative write a resolution in support of your position or in opposition to the issue. You may also want to consider scheduling time with one of your SGA Executive Officers to see how your issue fits within the shared governance model at UofL.
  4. Petitions - Start a petition to send to your SGA, state, local and/or federal officials to communicate the vast support that exists for your position.
  5. Teach-in - Organize a teach-in using the expertise of our own faculty or other key individuals you may know to create an informal lecture or discussion around the important topic.
  6. Schedule a Meeting- Determine who from the university is the best person to address and/or express your concerns and schedule a meeting with this individual(s). UofL students wanted extended hours of the University Library during finals. Student leaders met with the Dean of the Library and the Dean was able to implement the University Library remaining open 24 hours a day during finals and that schedule has been in place now for over a decade.
  7. Support - Review the type of event and think through what type of proactive steps can be taken to support UofL students. Should signs and flyers be made in advance, should you contact the Dean of Students Office to help coordinate emotional support professionals to be present to assist students, do you need to purchase supplies for the event.
At the Event
  1. Counter-demonstration - Organize a demonstration to illustrate your opposition to the point of view being presented by the other group.
  2. Leave - A very powerful tool to send a message of opposition is to deny a speaker and/or event your attendance. Controversial speakers are usually trained to provoke their audience and if the audience does not exist it creates a challenging situation for the speaker and/or organizers to create the dissention they desire.
  3. Stand Up and Turn Around - Another option is to force the speaker to speak to your back. Most speakers need to feed off the audience and the controversy they create. By turning your back you remain present but still send a message of opposition. This can only be done if you are not obstructing the view of other attendees who want to see the speaker.
  4. Tape Your Mouth - Another effective message you can send at an event is to place tape over your mouth to indicate you have been silenced. This can also mean you are sending a message that you oppose the view but are demonstrating your peaceful resistance to the message.
  5. T-Shirts - Many students create t-shirts to send a message and create a community of solidarity around the issue they support or disagree with.
  6. Picket-Signs - UofL students have created their own signs to counter picket the message/event being brought to the university.
  7. Flyers - You may want to create your own flyers
  8. Social Media - There are many social media platforms available to communicate your message for or against a particular cause/event/speaker.
  9. More Speech - You can counter hate speech or other speech with more free speech. Use your right to free expression to condemn hate speech and other speech.
  10. Sing/Chant – Sing/chant along to protest individuals who have hateful signs and messages.
Caution: What to Avoid

We want to make sure you are able to express your first amendment rights in a productive manner that complies with university, state and federal laws. Please keep in mind that we have professionals in the Division of Student Affairs who are trained to assist you with this process.

The exercise of free speech and assembly rights shall not:

  1. interfere with class instruction or other scheduled academic, educational, or cultural/arts program or with the use of the University facilities;
  2. disrupt university staff or officials while they are fulfilling their university responsibilities;
  3. block attendees from entering or exiting the event;
  4. obstruct pedestrian or vehicular traffic, or otherwise endanger persons or property;
  5. permit you to touch or spit on a speaker;
  6. employ sound amplification or create noise that disrupts University activities or interferes with the exercise of free speech by others;
  7. harass, intimidate, or impede the movement of persons;
  8. allow you to occupy an office or other non-public space;
  9. create or cause unsafe congestion around stairs and escalators.

Dissent becomes unprotected civil disobedience when taking over a campus building, disrupting classes or events, trespassing, vandalizing, or other types of conduct subject to time, place, manner restrictions. Civil disobedience could potentially result in criminal or conduct charges.

Civil Disobedience

The First Amendment protects the right to dissent in many forms. By definition, civil disobedience refers to the refusal to obey laws by violating them. In the United States, we have guaranteed the right to dissent, to protest, to assemble peaceably, to petition against a law, and to pose legal challenges to laws we believe violate constitutional rights. Students may dissent against a range of policies and against political ideas in a number of ways. Such dissent becomes unprotected civil disobedience when taking over a campus building, materially disrupting classes or events, trespassing, vandalizing, disturbing the peace, or other types of conduct subject to time, place, manner restrictions. UofL protects the freedom to dissent, and also seeks to raise awareness that participation in civil disobedience could potentially result in serious criminal or conduct charges.

Standards for Student Conduct

The general responsibility for non-academic misconduct is vested in the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs and delegated to the Dean of Students Office for administration of the Code of Student Conduct. If the incident occurred in University Housing the student may be referred to the appropriate Campus Housing staff member. The Dean of Students Office in consultation with Campus Housing staff will determine if an incident that occurred in University Housing should be resolved by the Dean of Students Office.

Possible violations that may be cited for students engaging in Civil Disobedience depending on the circumstances could be:

  • False Report
  • Misrepresentation
  • Expression Interference
  • Unauthorized Presence
  • Disruptive Demonstration
  • Harassment

When in violation of the law, Police may use the following penal codes:

  • Resisting arrest or delaying a peace officer
  • Disrupting a public meeting (Riot and unlawful assembly)
  • Failure to disperse
  • Disturbing the peace
  • Trespassing (Assault and battery)
  • Refusing to obey a peace officer who is enforcing the Vehicle Code
  • Attempting to free a person who has just been arrested
  • Vandalism/graffiti

This information is shared to assist with understanding when a line could be considered crossed. We want to make sure you are safe and also avoid any potential violation for yourself. Please reach out to a professional who can assist you as you navigate your first amendment rights. There are a number of campus officials willing to assist you - Dean of Students office staff, Student Involvement staff members, and Cultural Center staff members are just a few of the folks on campus here to help you with this process.