Free Speech and Expressive Activities in Public Forums (Common Outdoor Areas)
UTSA has long acknowledged and protected the rights of members of the university community to peacefully assemble and engage in expressive activities in traditional public forums. Changes in the law in 2019 extend this protection to members of the general public who are now also free to use common outdoor areas on campus as a traditional public forum to engage in expressive speech. UTSA’s Handbook of Operating Procedures (HOP) reflects these changes, and more information and examples of UTSA’s common outdoor areas can be found in our FAQs.
Expressive Activities by Students
Students and student groups planning an expressive activity on campus need to consider policies and opportunities to make their events effective and safe, whether hosting a guest speaker, planning a march or organizing a protest. Amplified sound, distribution of literature, filming on campus and security are just some of the details that students may need to prepare for when engaging in expressive activities on campus.
Events Management and Student Activities can assist in coordinating logistics and ensuring compliance with university policies and rules. Contact the Office of Student Activities in advance by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (210) 458-4160 for planning consultation and to reserve space for expressive activities.
Additionally, it is important to help prepare potential attendees for the event by sharing any relevant information in advance such as:
- Eating a nutritious meal and drinking lots of water prior to the activity
- Making signs with BIG, bold, legible letters and phrases that are not affixed to sticks and poles
- Any chants for participants to learn in advance
- Sharing agenda and, if applicable, if / where any marching will occur
- Encouraging individuals not to attend if they are sick or at high risk
- Safety guidance
Expressive Activities by Members of the Public
Visit UTSA HOP 9.37 to learn about guidelines for members of the public.
A 'How to Guide' on Expressive Activities
In keeping with our institutional values, individuals are prohibited from badgering, harassing or assaulting any other person for any reason. Should you experience this type of behavior at any time, please contact a university staff member or the UTSA Police Department at (210) 458-4911 for assistance.
The personal property of others, including but not limited to posters, signs, phones and other items, should be respected. Damage to, or otherwise tampering with, the personal property of others, without authorization or consent, will not be tolerated.
The display of exhibits requires an advance reservation with Events Management & Conference Services.
“Exhibits” are objects or collection of related objects, designed to stand on the ground or on a raised surface, which is not a table, is designed for temporary display, and is not permanently attached to the ground. This includes a-frames, pull-up banners and poster displays.
The use of amplified sound requires an advance reservation with Events Management & Conference Services. "Amplified sound" means sound where volume is increased by any electric, electronic, mechanical or motor-powered means. This includes but is not limited to, bullhorns, speakers, laptops, cell phones, microphones and tablets. See additional FAQs on Amplified Sound.
Tables and Chairs
The use of university furniture for private tabling or exhibits is prohibited.
UTSA encourages individuals or groups seeking to use the common outdoor areas to reserve space in advance. Members of the public may reserve a space in a common outdoor area by making a request to (210) 458-4155 or EMCSevents@utsa.edu. See additional FAQs on Space Scheduling.
- Assembling peacefully
- Participating in meaningful discussions
- Handing out flyers and brochures
- Respecting other demonstrators' ability to engage in speech and displaying messages without blocking the view of participants or causing the speaker to not be heard
- Following university policies and procedures
What to Avoid
- Blocking entrances and exits, and interfering with vehicular and pedestrian traffic
- Creating disruptions in buildings or at university events
- Vandalizing campus
- Engaging in physical violence or inciting others to take violent action
- Using amplified sound (sound with volume increased by any electronic, mechanical or moto-powered means) without advance permission or outside of the designated amplified sound areas
- Attempting to force others to view or listen to a message by coercion, badgering or intimidation
Alternate Formats for Expressive Activities
Although demonstrations serve as a well-known technique to express opinions or concerns, we encourage campus community members to consider alternative approaches that may provide more immediate and helpful solutions. These include:
- Use platforms like Zoom or Google Meet for educational events, meetings, vigils or to host a speaker; interfering with events or other expressive activities through this platform (such as by “Zoom Bombing”) is prohibited by university policy.
- Use an online petition platform such as change.org
- Use social media to host campaigns and involve supporters
- Letter writing campaign to a speaker, public representative
- Writing an op-ed in campus or local publications
- Declarations of action and/or support by organizations
- Donations or fundraising
- Post signage at your home or dorm
- Wearing of symbols
- Contact the Student Government
- Contact your state and federal representatives and senators