Expressing Disagreement

Expressing Disagreement Before, After or During an Event

  • Write guest editorials or send letters to The Nevada Sagebrush, ASUN or GSA, political representatives, groups, individuals, administrators or responsible parties.
  • Lend support, reassurance and empathy to others who may be hurt by offensive messages.
  • Be sure to comply with all University policies and local, state and federal regulations.   

Expressing Disagreement During an Event

Inside the room or event:

  • You may engage in peaceful, non-disruptive protest (for example, messages on shirts, turning your back to a speaker, putting tape over your mouth) if it does not create a disturbance or prevent the speaker from communicating to the audience, or otherwise prevent audience members from hearing and seeing the event.
  • Audience members may choose to leave the event as long as they do not obstruct the presentation.
  • If you disrupt or obstruct the presentation and fail to comply with the directions of University officials to cease disruption or leave the area, you will violate the University's code of conduct and/or the law. These are grounds for discipline or prosecution.
  • For events held where access to the event space can be controlled/secured, event sponsors may regulate what may be brought into an event space (such as video cameras or other recording devices, signs and banners) and activities that attendees may engage in; regulations such as these are permitted as they relate to time/place/manner (i.e., conduct) and not content.

Outside the building, room or event:

  • Peaceful protest or picketing with leaflets, petitions, singing, chanting or signs are allowed as long as it occurs in a space that is open to the public and does not disturb the event or prevent attendees from entering or leaving the event.
  • Do not block entrances or exits, impede pedestrian or vehicle traffic, or prevent others from entering, hearing, seeing or leaving the event or speech.
  • Do not use amplified sound unless allowed by applicable University sound policies.
  • Do not disrupt University functions or activities (such as nearby classes) or other events or programs using reserved space.   

Expressing Disagreement in Response to an Event

Before, after or during the event, you can respond to speech that you disagree with by sponsoring a separate presentation or event featuring alternative viewpoints, such as a:

  • Teach-in
  • Public forum
  • Workshop
  • March
  • Vigil
  • Counter-demonstration
  • Exhibit

If you are confronted with offensive speech or materials:

  • Maintain a safe distance and do not respond physically.
  • Keep in mind that even though you find it offensive, it is very likely protected free speech.
  • Consider organizing an appropriate, nonviolent response.
  • Seek assistance from a University official or the police if you feel you are being singled out or targeted or if you think that the conduct or speech violates University policy.  

Civil Disobedience

Protests and civil disobedience have played a historic role on university campuses, in bringing important and beneficial changes within society and in the development of our democracy. However, civil disobedience is not protected speech under the Constitution. The Constitution does not guarantee any right to engage in civil disobedience-which, by its very definition, involves the violation of laws or regulations-without incurring consequences. Civil disobedience may have a negative effect on the protected interests of others and may interfere with University business or threaten public safety or University assets in ways that require the University to act to protect those other interests. 

Could I be subject to disciplinary charges?

The following is a list of violations of University policy:

  • Destruction of or damage to University property (University Admin Manual 5,405)
  • Removal of computers and software (University Admin Manual 4,310)
  • Verbal and Physical abuse or threats (Section ii, A, 4-5)
  • Obstructing or disrupting University activities (Section ii, A, 2)
  • Furnishing false information to any University official, faculty member, or office (Section ii, A, 1b)
  • Disorderly or lewd conduct (Section ii, A, 2)
  • Failure to provide identification to or comply with directions of University official (Section ii, A, 3)
  • Resisting or obstructing University or other public officials in the performance of their duties (Section ii, A, 7)

View the full Student Code of Conduct.

What can the police charge me with?

Scenarios

A Controversial Speaker in a Public Area on Campus

Imagine there is a speaker on campus saying things that you deem hateful.

Is this behavior protected by the First Amendment?

Yes.

Why are they allowed to be here?

The First Amendment protects nearly all speech, including speech that is annoying, rude, offensive and potentially hateful to you. On a public university campus, plazas and sidewalks are public forums where free speech can occur.

What can you do?

There are many different options you can choose. Very often, controversial speakers are deliberately provocative in an attempt to gain an audience. One option is to ignore them completely and deny them that audience. You also have the right to rebuttal. You can engage in counter speech as an extension of your First Amendment rights. Additionally, if you believe you have experienced or witnessed an act of hate, bias, discrimination or harassment, report it so the university can follow up appropriately.

What can you not do?

It is very important to note that you cannot touch any speaker, no matter how offensive you view their speech. By doing so, you might bring consequences upon yourself, while also obscuring the validity of your point of view.

A Controversial Speaker in a Classroom

Suppose that one of your professors is bringing in a guest speaker/lecturer that you believe is inappropriate or offensive.

Is this protected by the First Amendment?

Yes.

Why are they allowed to be here?

Academic freedom protects nearly all activities in the classroom. According to the Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) policy Academic freedom is essential to these purposes and is applicable to both teaching and research. Freedom in teaching is fundamental for the protection of the rights of the teacher in teaching and of the student in learning.

What can you do?

You can set up a meeting or send an email to your professor to discuss your concerns in regards to the speaker. You can protest the speaker outside of the building in public areas. If you plan to use amplified sound during your protest, make sure to follow the Sound Policy. You can also use social media to protest and raise awareness about the speaker and your objections or points of rebuttal.

What can you not do?

You cannot disrupt the class or speaker. This may violate and subject you to student disciplinary action under the university's student code of conduct.

A Controversial Speaker Invited to Speak on Campus

Imagine there is a speaker known to say things you deem hateful who has been invited to speak on campus by a member of faculty, staff, registered student organization or other recognized group.

Is this speech protected by the First Amendment?

Yes, it is.

Why are they allowed to be here?

The First Amendment protects nearly all speech, including speech that is annoying, rude, offensive and potentially hateful to you. By allowing students access to use university facilities, such as auditoriums, classrooms and other buildings, to host speakers, the university has opened up such forums as public forums. Therefore, the university will not, and legally may not, discriminate based on content or viewpoint.

What can you do?

As mentioned in the previous scenario, there are many different options you can choose. Very often, controversial speakers are deliberately provocative in an attempt to gain an audience. One option is to ignore them completely and deny them that audience. You also have the right to express your disagreement during the event, outside the venue or on social media in accordance with the guidance and limitations listed above.

What can you not do?

You may not disrupt or obstruct the presentation. You may not block attendees from entering into or exiting from the event. It is very important to note that you cannot touch any speaker, no matter how offensive you view their speech. If you do, you may be subject to student disciplinary action or arrest.

Disagreement with University Administration

Imagine you would like to protest action by university administration by physically and actively expressing your disagreement.

What can you do?

You have a range of options. You may circulate a petition or send a letter voicing your concerns to the administration and your student government. You may request to meet with university officials to discuss your concerns. You may engage in peaceful protest or picket with leaflets, singing, chanting or carrying signs in a space open to the public, such as the area outside the building or within lobbies during business hours.

What can you not do?

You may not engage in an occupation/sit-in of an office or other non-public space in a university building in violation of the university's student code of conduct. If you do, you may be subject to student disciplinary action or arrest for trespassing. You may not block traffic into or out of the room, floor or building. You may not obstruct or disrupt university staff or officials while they are fulfilling their duties. If you do, you may be subject to student disciplinary action for obstruction or disruption of teaching, research, administration or other university activities. You may not engage in tagging or mark university facilities with graffiti. If you do, you may be subject to student disciplinary action for destruction or damage to university property or arrest for vandalism/graffiti.