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Freedom of Expression



Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

The University of California at Santa Barbara has a long history of respecting and valuing student activism. The campus has also been a vigorous protector of the First Amendment and students’ rights to assemble peaceably and to express their opinions through speech and media. We take pride in our students’ engagement with social and political issues, viewing it as a desirable, if not essential, component of the college experience.

While the rights afforded citizens by the First Amendment of the Constitution are the bedrock of American society, they occupy an even more hallowed place in the life of a university. The fundamental mission of the university — to seek, discover, and disseminate truth — cannot be realized without open, unimpeded exchange of ideas, both inside and outside the classroom. Consequently, both the US Constitution and the university’s core mission inspire the policies and practices related to free expression on our campus.

The use of the word “unimpeded” is not meant to imply that the constitutionally protected rights of speech and assembly are without restriction or limit. For everyone to enjoy freedom of expression, there must be reciprocal respect for the rights of all individuals: the exercise of the rights granted by the First Amendment cannot interfere with others’ exercising their own rights.

As a public institution, UC Santa Barbara also has the authority to regulate the use of its property and in so doing limit First Amendment rights through “time, place, and manner” restrictions. While individuals may exercise the constitutionally protected rights of speech and assembly on university grounds that are generally open to the public, these activities must not interfere with the orderly operation of the campus and must be conducted in a manner that reasonably protects others from becoming involuntary audiences. For the purpose of applying “time, place, and manner” restrictions, “grounds open to the public generally” are defined as the outdoor areas of the campus (lawns, patios, plazas) that are adjacent to campus buildings and parking lots. These outdoor areas may be used for non-amplified speech and advocacy as long as normal activities in classrooms and offices are not disrupted.

Sound amplification equipment may be used in six of the seven established free speech areas during designated times. The free speech areas where amplification is permitted are:

  • University Center Lawn and Friendship Court,
  • Faculty Club Green,
  • Storke Plaza,
  • Student Affairs Administrative Services Building Courtyard,
  • Campbell Hall Plaza,
  • and Campus Green.

No sound amplification is allowed at the Arbor Mall. For the times during which sound amplification is allowed as well as for a fuller discussion of time, place, and manner regulations, consult “Chapter III: Campus Activities: Speech and Advocacy” in the Campus Regulations, Student Conduct and Discipline found on the Division of Student Affairs’ homepage under the tab “Student Affairs Policies.”

Failure to comply with the law or time, place, and manner regulations while engaging in speech and assembly constitutes civil disobedience. Civil disobedience is illegal by definition. It is a decision on the part of an individual, who may or may not be a member of a collective action, to intentionally violate a law or policy in protest of a perceived unfairness or injustice by government or some other institution.

Although civil disobedience has played a historic and respected role in the United States, from the founding of the nation forward, it is essential for students to be aware that civil disobedience involving violence and threats of violence, damage to property, and serious disruption of the business of the university, particularly disruption of the educational process and key offices and departments, such as Student Health, Financial Aid, Counseling, and Registrar, cannot be tolerated. Equally, interfering with the free expression of other individuals, such as disrupting a speech, cannot be tolerated.

It is also important for students to understand that there are risks involved in and consequences for engaging in civil disobedience. Indeed, it is the risk — and the potential for punishment — that imbue the action of the civil disobedient with its moral weight. Students should keep in mind the possible consequences of civil disobedience, such as arrest and prosecution, and should consider carefully whether they are truly prepared to make the necessary sacrifices.

Questions? Contact Dr. Katya Armistead, Assistant Vice Chancellor/Dean of Student Life

(805) 893-8912

For additional information, see the UC Police Department (UCPD)