Members of the UTSA community may have noticed a recent increase in individuals or groups not affiliated with university exercising their First Amendment rights to freely assemble and speak on UTSA’s campuses. The increase is largely the result of a recent legislative change made by the passage of Senate Bill 18.
Senate Bill 18, regarding Protected Expression on Campus for all public higher education institutions in Texas, went into effect on September 1, 2019. Among other things, this new law deems a public university’s common outdoor areas as traditional public forums. This designation means that any individual or group – even those not affiliated with UTSA – can engage in free speech activities on campus. Members of the general public are no longer required to be invited to campus to undertake these expressive activities at UTSA.
However, the law does not mean that individuals may say whatever they wish, wherever they wish. UTSA may, and does, reasonably regulate the time, place, and manner of expression to ensure that it does not disrupt the ordinary activities of the university. Still, these are narrow exceptions to the general principle of freedom of expression, and it is vitally important that these exceptions never be used in a manner that is inconsistent with UTSA’s commitment to a completely free and open discussion of ideas.
UTSA expects members of the university community to act in conformity with the noted principle of free expression. Although members of the university community are free to criticize and contest the opinions expressed on campus, as well as speakers who are invited to UTSA to share their views, they may not obstruct or otherwise interfere with the freedom of others to express views they reject or even loathe. To this end, UTSA has a solemn responsibility not only to promote a lively and fearless freedom of debate and deliberation, but also to protect that freedom when others attempt to restrict it.
For more information or questions regarding expressive activities on UTSA’s campus, please contact the Dean of Students office at firstname.lastname@example.org.