Wright State University is fully committed to promoting and protecting the free and open exchange of ideas. Encouraging individuals to share their varying thoughts and perspectives enriches the University environment and can allow community members to experience new ideas.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is freedom of expression, and what does it protect?
Freedom of expression is the right of a person to articulate opinions and ideas without interference or retaliation from the government. It protects more than mere “speech,” but also what a person wears, reads, performs, thinks, protests, and more. In the United States, freedom of expression is protected by the First Amendment in the U.S. Constitution, and in Article I of the Ohio Constitution.
Why does Wright State University allow people and organizations to freely speak, express themselves, or demonstrate on campus?
First, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects free expression in public forums. As a public university, and a part of the state of Ohio, Wright State is not legally permitted to interfere with free expression in public forums.
Second, the university’s primary purpose is education. History has shown that the free and open exchange of ideas and information is essential for education, and simultaneously, that limiting or prohibiting ideas or opinions based on their popularity tends to impair education.
The ideas, activities, and opinions expressed by individuals and groups on-campus are not necessarily those of the university, and you should not imply that the university condones or endorses the messages of those individuals and groups.
Can Wright State stop a person’s speech, expression, or demonstration?
Usually, no. Most forms of expression are legally protected, even those that one might find offensive or even hateful. The university does not, and legally cannot, prevent otherwise constitutionally protected expression merely based on content.
The university can and does limit the time, place, and manner of expression to preserve and promote its operations. For example, the university does not permit on-campus demonstrations from blocking or interfering with access to campus, or access to buildings. Similarly, the university does not permit noisy demonstrations in residence halls, where they might interfere with residents who are studying or sleeping. Those types of restrictions are always content-neutral and will be enforced regardless of the subject of the expression.
The university can and does limit expression that involves criminal activity, or imminent threats to persons and property. The Constitution does not protect or excuse criminal or violent activities.
Over time, the courts have determined that some types of speech are “unprotected,” which are addressed below.
Is there any kind of expressive activity that the First Amendment does not protect?
Yes, but these categories are very few and very narrow. Examples of prohibited expressive activities are true threats and incitement of imminent lawless action.
Additionally, Wright State’s commitment to freedom of expression does not extend to remarks that constitute harassment. The university has a Free Speech and Harassment Policy, which applies to students, student groups, faculty, staff, and campus visitors. Under this policy, harassment is defined as conduct and/or expression that is (1) not protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution or Article I of the Ohio Constitution (Unprotected Expression); (2) unwelcome; and (3) so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively denies an individual equal access to the individual's education program or activity. The policy applies to alleged harassment that takes place on Wright State University property (owned, leased, or controlled premises), at Wright State University’s sponsored events, and in connection with a Wright State University recognized program or activity. Expression could be in person, in writing, and/or by telecommunication.
And again, free expression does not protect violent or criminal behavior.
Is “hate speech” legally protected?
Usually, yes. The term “hate speech,” often refers to speech that insults or demeans a person or group of people on the basis of attributes such as, race, religion, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, disability, or gender. While those views are deeply at odds with the values of Wright State, hateful or offensive speech is generally protected by the U.S. Constitution in the same way that popular or uncontroversial speech is protected.
What is academic freedom?
Academic Freedom is the unqualified right of every faculty member, whether or not that person possesses tenure, to freely (among other things) teach, both in and outside the classroom; to conduct research and to publish, display, or perform the results of those investigations; and to address any matter of institutional policy or action whether or not as a member of an agency of institutional governance. Faculty should also have the freedom to address the larger community with regard to any matter of social, political, economic, or other interest, without institutional discipline, save in response to fundamental violations of professional ethics, statements that suggest disciplinary incompetence, or violations of their professional responsibilities.
Academic freedom typically comes with a reciprocal obligation to respect and maintain the academic freedom of every other member of the university community.
Where can I find Wright State University’s Policies on free expression?
Is there anything else I need to know about free expression on campus?
If there is ever a threat to anyone’s safety, contact 911 immediately, or for non-emergency situations contact the University Police at 937-775-2111.
Some people may be seeking negative attention or trying to anger those around them. If their behavior is ignored, these people will often leave.
If a person’s speech, expression, or demonstration upsets you, remember you may always move to another location.
Remember that Wright State students and employees are held to a higher standard of conduct and civility than visitors.
Demonstrations and Marches Registration Form
When applicable and in accordance with University Policy 1260.04, please return this registration form to the Office of the Dean of Students, 224 Student Union.