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.
University’s O.R.C. 3345.0214 Report
In accordance with Ohio Revised Code 3345.0214, the University submitted to the Ohio Governor, the Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives, and the President of the Ohio Senate a report detailing its course of action in accordance with sections 3345.0212 and 3345.0213 of the Revised Code and a description of any barriers to or incidents of disruption of free expression occurring on campus. To read the report, please click the link below:
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.
What are the principles of free speech that are the state of Ohio’s public policy?
In accordance with Ohio Revised Code 3345.0215, the University affirms in its Expressive Activity; Free Speech Policy 1260 the following principles of free speech, which are the public policy of the state of Ohio:
- Students have a fundamental constitutional right to free speech.
- A state institution of higher education shall be committed to giving students broad latitude to speak, write, listen, challenge, learn, and discuss any issue, subject to University Policy 1260.
- A state institution of higher education shall be committed to maintaining a campus as a marketplace of ideas for all students and all faculty in which the free exchange of ideas is not to be suppressed because the ideas put forth are thought by some or even by most members of the institution's community to be offensive, unwise, immoral, indecent, disagreeable, conservative, liberal, traditional, radical, or wrong-headed.
- It is for a state institution of higher education's individual students and faculty to make judgments about ideas for themselves, and to act on those judgments not by seeking to suppress free speech, but by openly and vigorously contesting the ideas that they oppose.
- It is not the proper role of a state institution of higher education to attempt to shield individuals from free speech, including ideas and opinions they find offensive, unwise, immoral, indecent, disagreeable, conservative, liberal, traditional, radical, or wrong-headed.
- Although a state institution of higher education should greatly value civility and mutual respect, concerns about civility and mutual respect shall never be used by an institution as a justification for closing off the discussion of ideas, however offensive, unwise, immoral, indecent, disagreeable, conservative, liberal, traditional, radical, or wrong-headed those ideas may be to some students or faculty.
- Although all students and all faculty are free to state their own views about and contest the views expressed on campus, and to state their own views about and contest speakers who are invited to express their views on the campus of a state institution of higher education, they may not substantially obstruct or otherwise substantially interfere with the freedom of others to express views they reject or even loathe. To this end, a state institution of higher education has a responsibility to promote a lively and fearless freedom of debate and deliberation and protect that freedom.
- A state institution of higher education shall be committed to providing an atmosphere that is most conducive to speculation, experimentation, and creation by all students and all faculty, who shall always remain free to inquire, to study and to evaluate, and to gain new understanding.
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.
When necessary to serve a significant institutional interest, the University may institute reasonable, viewpoint-neutral restrictions or requirements upon otherwise protected speech or expressive conduct. 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 viewpoint-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. For example, unprotected expressive activities may include conduct that is: obscene (but not merely sexual), “fighting words,” “true threats,” fraudulent, defamatory, advocating imminent lawlessness, and unlawful harassment. And again, free expression does not protect violent or criminal behavior.
Additionally, Wright State’s commitment to freedom of expression does not extend to remarks that constitute harassment. In the University’s Expressive Activity; Free Speech Policy 1260, harassment is defined in accordance with Ohio Revised Code § 3345.0211, as conduct and/or expressive activity that is:
- Not protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, or Article I, Sections 3 (Right to Assemble) and 5 (Freedom of Speech; of the Press; of Libels) of the Ohio Constitution; and
- Unwelcome; and
- So severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively denies an individual equal access to the individual’s educational program or activity.
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.
If I am a student or part of a student group and want to reserve and host a group meeting on campus how do I go about that?
“University Premises” means all University premises (including grounds, lots, buildings, facilities, and other spaces). University Premises are principally dedicated for use by the University for purposes related to the University’s mission (“official use”). Official use takes precedence over any and all other proposed uses of University Premises.
“Surplus Premises” means University Premises that are not in-use or reserved for use for teaching, service, research, and administrative services, or excluded under Section C in the Expressive Activity; Free Speech Policy 1260.3. University Premises are available to students, registered student groups, employees, officially-recognized employee groups, and academic or administrative departments of the University, without charge and on a space-available, first-come-first-served basis for events and activities that advance the University’s mission. Such use shall also constitute “official use.” (Example: hosting student group meetings, speeches by officially invited guests of a department, and official student activities, and so forth.) A student organization activity or event that is approved by the Office of Student Involvement and Leadership (or other departments within the Office of Student Affairs) constitutes “official use” under this Section. The Campus Recreation Department is responsible for scheduling all University premises, and official use of University premises requires a space reservation.
Space reservations are required for all official use of Surplus Premises, but not Unofficial Use of University Outdoor Public Areas. Space reservations are available from the Campus Recreation Department.
In addition to a space reservation, a permit is required if a user wishes to reserve particular space, or reserve space for their exclusive use. Additionally, a permit is required if (a.) the sponsor anticipates or should anticipate an audience of more than fifty people, (b.) sound amplification will be used, (c.) the sponsor wishes to cordon-off or fence-in the space, (d.) the event involves set-up or tear-down, including seating, platforms/stages, lighting, A/V equipment, or electronic/mechanical equipment, or (e.) the event involves a large display (more than 100 lbs). There is no charge for a permit. Permit applications must be submitted to the Campus Recreation Department. Applications filed at least thirty days in advance of an event will be processed at least one week before the event. Applications filed less than thirty days in advance of an event will be processed expeditiously and in good faith, but processing is not guaranteed before the start of the event. Permits will be processed and issued/refused without regard to the viewpoint of the applicant.
Please read the University’s Expressive Activity; Free Speech Policy 1260.3 for more information, including subsection (E) for rules.
What if I want to use a University outdoor space for unofficial use?
When not in-use or reserved for use for official purposes, all publicly-accessible outdoor areas of the University (excluding athletic facilities) are publicly available, without charge and during daylight hours, on a space-available and first-come-first-served basis, for noncommercial speech and expressive conduct. Speech and expressive activity that occurs within one hundred feet of a residential housing unit, classroom, or office, shall occur at no more than a conversational volume.
Please read the University’s Expressive Activity; Free Speech Policy 1260.3 for more information.
What if I want to engage in a commercial activity on campus?
Except as provided below, or elsewhere in University Policy, commercial activity is prohibited across the University’s campuses, including within Surplus Premises made available under the University’s Expressive Activity; Free Speech Policy 1260.3. This prohibition does not apply in the case of:
- University Business Associates. Commercial activity by a party with which the University has an official business relationship. Example: food service in dining areas, sales in the bookstore.
- Student Organization Fundraisers. Non-profit fundraising activities conducted by registered student organizations or academic units. (Example: “Black Wall Street” event sponsored by the Black Students’ Association, art sale sponsored by the fine arts program, performances sponsored by the performing arts.) The Office of the Dean of Students reserves the authority to limit the number, duration, location, and type/manner of student organization fundraisers under this policy.
- Official Events. Approved commercial activity conducted by persons/entities invited to the University for that purpose. (Example: local restaurant/business tables at April Craze; food trucks at Fall Fest.)
- Commercial Rentals. Approved commercial activity conducted by a lessee/licensee during a commercial rental. (Example: A promoter selling event tickets or merchandise while renting the Nutter Center for the event.)
Does the University have a free speech complaint and resolution process for students, student groups, or employees?
Yes, any student, student group, or employee may submit a written complaint about an alleged violation of the University’s Expressive Activity; Free Speech Policy 1260 by a University employee, which may include a penalty imposed on a student’s grade for an assignment or coursework that is unrelated to ordinary academic standards of substance and relevance, including any legitimate pedagogical concerns, and is instead based on the content of the student’s otherwise constitutionally-protected speech or expressive conduct.
How do you file a complaint?
Complaints must be written and submitted through the University’s EthicsPoint system or by calling 1-855-353-3783. The University will investigate any complaint that satisfies the following criteria:
- The complainant is a student, student group (filed on behalf of the group by a member of its leadership team or official advisor), or employee; and
- The complainant gives their name, and indicates a willingness to participate in the investigation and hearing process; and
- The allegations, if true, constitute a violation of the University’s Expressive Activity; Free Speech Policy 1260; and
- The complaint is filed within 120 days of the alleged policy violation.
The University may investigate, but is under no obligation to investigate, complaints that do not meet each of the foregoing criteria.
What happens after a complaint is filed?
Referral and Investigation.
Complaints will be forwarded to the University’s Director of Compliance. The Director (or designee) will promptly review each complaint to determine if the criteria listed in Expressive Activity; Free Speech Policy 1260.6 (B) are satisfied, and may conduct an informal inquiry to gather information necessary to make that determination. If any of the criteria are not satisfied, the Director (or designee) may either initiate an investigation or dismiss the complaint. If a complaint is dismissed, the Director will notify the complainant in-writing.
If the Director (or designee) determines that further investigation is appropriate, the Director will conduct the investigation or appoint an employee to do so. The investigation will be conducted in accordance with written protocol adopted by the Director. The protocol will conform to the requirements of state law and, if applicable, to the provisions of any collective bargaining agreement.
Absent extraordinary circumstances, an investigation will conclude within ninety days after the filing of a complaint.
Upon receipt of the investigator’s final report of investigation, the Director will provide the complainant and the respondent with the report and offer the complainant and the respondent an opportunity for a hearing. If the complainant requests a hearing, the Director will appoint a single hearing officer or a hearing panel to preside at the hearing. The hearing will be conducted in accordance with written protocol adopted by the Director. The protocol will conform to the requirements of state law and, if applicable, to the provisions of any collective bargaining agreement. Absent extraordinary circumstances, the hearing officer or panel will produce a written report within fourteen days after the hearing concludes.
If the outcome of the hearing is a finding that the complaint is not substantiated by the evidence, the Director will notify the complainant and respondent, and close the complaint as “not substantiated.”
If the outcome of the hearing is a finding that the complaint is substantiated by the evidence, the Director or hearing officer or panel will additionally make recommendations for corrective action. The Director will promptly forward the complaint, the investigative report, the hearing officer/panel’s findings and recommendations, and other pertinent papers to the Board of Trustees.
At any time prior the Board’s action, the complainant and respondent may resolve a complaint informally and to their mutual satisfaction. A private resolution will not preclude the University from taking appropriate action.
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.