Limitations to Free Expression

Despite broad rights to free expression, there are limitations. The University may restrict expression that is not constitutionally protected, including:

  • Obscenity
  • Fighting words - directed to an individual and which tend to provoke immediate violent reaction
  • True threats - where speaker means to communicate a serious expression of intent to commit an unlawful act of violence to an individual or group of individuals
  • Incitement of immediate unlawful action
  • Defamation
  • Any other speech that constitutes a crime
  • Harassment – unwelcome conduct that is so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively denies an individual equal access to their education program or activity

Additionally, members of the campus community may not, under the guise of free expression, knowingly interfere with others’ rights to freely express themselves such as by engaging in violence or threats, or physically blocking others from attending legal gatherings.

When the University has a significant interest in restricting free expression to certain times, places, or manners, reasonable limitations may be imposed, including noise limits, maximum numbers of individuals assembled, bans on late evening or early morning demonstrations, and restrictions on the size or placement of signs on University property.

Any limitations shall not be based on the content of the expression or any viewpoint expressed. In such rare cases, Shawnee State will allow for ample alternative means for expressive activity and allow members of the campus community to spontaneously assemble and distribute literature.