C11.0 Policy on Freedom of Speech and Expression
All members of the RIT Community (defined below) shall comply with this Policy. This Policy is considered part of the conditions of employment and participation in RIT sponsored events or programs. This Policy applies to speech and expression that takes place on the RIT campus, at any RIT international location, at university sponsored events or programs off campus, and while students are studying abroad. This policy also applies to speech and expression that occurs on electronic resources (e.g., RIT computers and email accounts) and social media sites (e.g., Facebook and Twitter) owned, maintained, or controlled by RIT.
The standards set forth in this policy do not replace the requirements of applicable local, state, federal, or international law. All members of the RIT Community are expected to comply with applicable laws pertaining to their conduct, including but not limited to, laws restricting rights to free speech and expression. This Policy incorporates the procedures found here: C11.0 Procedures.
RIT strives to enable its staff, faculty and students to pursue truth, seek knowledge, and develop understanding of what it means to be a member of a civil society. Freedom of speech and expression are indispensable to RIT’s educational mission. While each member of the RIT Community (defined below) enjoys freedom of speech and expression both within the classroom and on the larger campus, such freedom also comes with responsibility. Faculty have the inviolable freedom to teach, and an equally inviolable responsibility to foster and safeguard the freedom of all to learn by creating an orderly environment in the classroom and on campus. Students have the inviolable freedom to learn, and an equally inviolable responsibility to maintain an orderly, intellectual environment wherein such freedom is freely exercisable by all members of the academic community.
As a private university, RIT retains the legal authority to determine the extent to which it will regulate an individual’s right to free speech and expression. RIT vigorously supports the rights of all members of the RIT Community to freely express their views and to peacefully and lawfully protest against actions and opinions with which they disagree. RIT also recognizes that the right to free speech and expression is not absolute. It must be balanced against the university’s obligation to the principles of academic freedom and to provide a secure and civil environment where faculty, staff, and students can freely exchange ideas and openly engage in deliberation, debate and learning. Any decision that RIT might take to regulate speech or expression by members of the RIT Community, shall be based on RIT’s commitment to foster a safe and civil environment where differing views and opinions are expressed. Open-mindedness, civility, respect, decency, and sensitivity for the opinions and rights of others, however different from one’s own, are crucial to fulfilling the university’s academic mission.
The freedom to debate and discuss ideas does not grant an unfettered right to protest anywhere, at any time, and in any manner. Nor does it grant an unfettered right to impede the ability of members of the RIT Community to conduct the work of the university, interfere with or infringe upon the equal rights and freedoms of others, create unsafe conditions, or deface university property. RIT shall establish reasonable Time, Place, and Manner restrictions (defined below) to ensure that free speech and expression are exercised in accordance with this policy and other applicable RIT policies, such as the Honor Code (P03.0), Core Values (P04.0), Policy Prohibiting Discrimination and Harassment (C06.0), the Student Code of Conduct (D18.0), and Student Gender-Based and Sexual Misconduct Policy – Title IX (D19.0).
The university is committed to freedom of speech and expression and therefore does not have an obligation to insulate members of the RIT community from ideas and opinions that are objectionable, offensive, unwise, ill-conceived, or hateful in nature. Unprotected Speech (defined below) violates the law or RIT policies. It shall be prohibited and handled through established disciplinary processes.
Consistent with RIT’s Honor Code and Core Values, the university offers training and educational opportunities for members of the RIT community about civil discourse and the freedom of speech and expression. Support and resources are provided for members of the RIT community who experience speech or expression that they find objectionable, offensive, unwise, ill-conceived or hateful in nature. Additional resources may also be found in C11.0 Procedures.
- RIT Community means any individual authorized to be on the RIT campus as defined below:
- Faculty, Staff, and Students shall have the same meaning as those terms are defined in RIT’s Employee Work Classifications policy (E01.0) and the Student Code of Conduct (D18.0).
- Extended RIT Community are members of the RIT Community who are not Faculty, Staff, or Students. This includes, but is not limited to, alumni, retirees, parents, and trustees.
- Visitors are external organizations and individuals in their operations with RIT, and guests invited by RIT Faculty, Staff, or Students.
- Protected Speech is speech or expression that is protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. All forms of Protected Speech are allowed on property owned or leased by RIT and at RIT sponsored events or programs without regard to location, subject to the provisions of this Policy or applicable laws. All forms of Protected Speech shall be subject to Time, Place, and Manner restrictions (defined below).
- Unprotected Speech is speech or expression that does not fall within the protections of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. All forms of Unprotected Speech shall not be allowed on property owned or leased by RIT and at RIT sponsored events or programs. Whether speech or expression is unprotected is based on decisions of applicable courts, including but not limited to United States state and federal courts. Courts have routinely held that obscenity, subversive speech, fighting words, defamation and commercial speech are forms of unprotected speech. However, as courts make new decisions what is considered unprotected speech and expression is subject to change. Please see the C11.0 Procedures document for a further explanation of speech and expression currently considered unprotected.
- Hate Speech is speech that offends, threatens, or insults individuals, based solely on that individual’s group, class or category (defined below). Hate speech is Protected Speech. It shall be subject to Time, Place, and Manner restrictions in accordance with the provisions of this policy, other RIT policies, or applicable law.
- Time, Place, and Manner restrictions are university rules which are intended to identify when, where, and how Protected Speech can be exercised under this Policy. Time, Place, and Manner restrictions shall be content and viewpoint neutral, narrowly drawn, serve a university interest, and allow for the expression of Protected Speech. Time, Place and Manner restrictions must be publicized by the university and reviewed on a regular basis by the Responsible Office for this Policy (see below).
- Trigger Warnings are verbal or written alerts that provide notice of content that may prompt traumatic memories in a person who may have experienced a past event related to the content to be discussed. Trigger Warnings are associated with written notices on course syllabi or program announcements but are not intended to censor content. The sole purpose of Trigger Warnings is to provide prior notice of topics being discussed so that individuals who feel as if that topic may recall past trauma may act accordingly.
- Group, class or category includes, but is not limited to, race, religion, age, citizenship, color, creed, culture, including Deaf culture, actual or perceived disabilities, gender, marital status, ethnic or national origin, political affiliation or preference, military or veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or genetic predisposition.
- Heckler’s Veto is the principle that Protected Speech may be prevented by the threat of disturbances or disruptions by those opposed to the content or viewpoint of the speech.
- RIT Community means any individual authorized to be on the RIT campus as defined below:
- Free and Open Exchange of Ideas. RIT is committed to the free and open exchange of ideas, including ideas that some, or perhaps most, people find offensive. When the free and open exchange of ideas involves Protected Speech, RIT may regulate such speech in accordance with the provisions of this Policy. When the free and open exchange of ideas involves Unprotected Speech, RIT shall not allow such speech. In all instances, the free and open exchange of ideas shall comply with all other RIT policies including, but not limited to, the Honor Code (P03.0), Core Values (P04.0), Policy Prohibiting Discrimination and Harassment (C06.0), Political and Legislative Policy (C10.0), the Student Code of Conduct (D18.0), and Student Gender-Based and Sexual Misconduct Policy – Title IX (D19.0).
- Heckler’s Veto. RIT does not recognize the Heckler’s Veto as a legitimate reason to not allow a potentially controversial event from proceeding. RIT may consider the threat of disturbances when determining if it can provide a secure environment for a particular event and which, if any, Time, Place, and Manner restrictions will apply.
- Academic Freedom. RIT is committed to the principles of academic freedom and the right of faculty to speak or write, free from institutional censorship or discipline, in their teaching, studies, and research. RIT’s commitment to academic freedom is contained in the Principles of Academic Freedom (E02.0). Likewise, students are entitled to exercise their right to Protected Speech within the classroom, without fear of retaliation, provided that such speech is broadly relevant to the course and complies with the provisions of this Policy.
- Trigger Warnings. Trigger Warnings are voluntary. RIT encourages its faculty and staff to use their professional judgement when determining if Trigger Warnings are appropriate.
- Speakers and Events. All speakers and events must be invited or organized by an RIT affiliated organization. Petitions from external groups and members of the extended RIT community to invite speakers to or hold an event on the RIT campus or use campus facilities shall be handled through the appropriate university entity.
- Demonstrations, Protests, and Rallies. RIT supports the rights of all RIT Community members to express their views and to protest against actions and opinions with which they disagree, provided that peaceful and lawful means of dissent are utilized and that such expression complies with the provisions of this Policy.
- All demonstrations, protests, or rallies must be organized by an RIT affiliated organization. This includes student organizations as well as individual faculty, staff, and students. Petitions from external groups and members of the extended RIT community to hold such events shall be handled through the appropriate university entity.
- Demonstrations, protests, or rallies on campus must not disrupt the normal business of the university. Events that disrupt classes, bar entry into any RIT building or rooms within any RIT building not reserved for demonstrations, protests, or rallies, threaten the safety of any RIT community member, or defaces RIT property are prohibited. Violators of this policy will be subject to applicable disciplinary procedures or applicable law
- Political and Legislative Activities. As a tax-exempt organization under the Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3), RIT cannot intervene in any political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office. Individual members of the RIT community are entitled to support candidates of their choice, or to express their personal views on political issues, provided that in so doing they are not acting in their official capacity as an officer or employee of RIT, or are in violation of any applicable law or RIT policies. RIT’s Political and Legislative Activities policy (C10.0), administered by the Office of Government & Community Relations, shall govern the responsibilities of RIT and members of the RIT community.
- Advertisements. Only members of the RIT Community may advertise a particular event or speaker on campus. The advertisements may include, but are not limited to, notifications, banners, signage, chalk messages, placards, announcements, and other displays. The advertisements shall comply with the provisions of this Policy and are subject to removal by RIT, without notice, if they contain Unprotected Speech, are in violation of applicable law or other RIT policies, or fail to follow the proper procedures for posting. RIT Community members who display messages that violate RIT’s guidelines on Protected Speech will be subject to applicable disciplinary procedures.
- Violations. Violations of this policy shall be handled through established disciplinary processes. Students, for example, will be subject to the student conduct process as outlined in the Student Code of Conduct (D18.0) and Student Gender-Based and Sexual Misconduct Policy – Title IX (D19.0). Faculty and staff will be subject to the relevant policies in RIT’s policy library (for example, the Compliance Code and Code of Ethical Conduct (C0.0)). Visitors may be subject to expulsion from campus or any other remedies available under applicable laws.
Retaliation. The university prohibits retaliation against any member of the RIT Community because they have filed a complaint alleging a violation of this Policy, have participated in the processes described in this Policy, or opposed any practice in violation of this Policy or applicable federal, state, or local laws. Retaliation should be reported promptly and may result in disciplinary action independent of the sanction or interim measures imposed in response to the underlying allegations. Complaints alleging retaliation shall utilize the same procedures for filing complaints alleging violations of this Policy.
REGULATION OF SPEECH OR EXPRESSION
- Regulation of Protected Speech or Expression. RIT may regulate or prohibit Protected Speech or expression only through Time, Place, and Manner restrictions. Time, Place, and Manner restrictions are reasonable when they are content and viewpoint neutral, narrowly drawn, serve a university interest, allow for the expression of Protected Speech, and promote a secure environment. Time, Place and Manner Restrictions can be found in C11.0 Procedures.
- Time, Place, and Manner Restrictions.
- Content and Viewpoint Neutral. Time, Place, and Manner restrictions are content and viewpoint neutral when they apply equally to all forms of Protected Speech regardless of the topic to be discussed or expressed.
- Narrowly Drawn. Time, Place, and Manner restrictions are narrowly drawn when they are carefully aimed at addressing a specific university interest.
- Serve a University Interest. Time, Place, and Manner restrictions serve a university interest when they address public safety concerns, the ability to conduct the work of the university, the interference with or infringement upon the equal rights and freedoms of others, or other university policies. Costs associated with the planned speech or expression may be considered but it shall apply equally to all forms of Protected Speech and shall not be the sole determinative factor.
- Allow for the Expression of Protected Speech. Time, Place, and Manner restrictions allow for the expression of Protected Speech when alternative means of expression remain available.
- Promotion of a Secure Environment. Public safety and RIT’s ability to provide a secure environment are of paramount concern. RIT’s Office of Public Safety is authorized to shut down an event that immediately threatens public safety without consultation with the event organizers. Additionally, for planned events, event organizers are strongly encouraged or may be required to consult with RIT’s Office of Public Safety to complete a security plan for ensuring a secure environment during the event.
Responsible Office: Office of Legal Affairs
- From students, contact the Office of the Senior Vice President for Student Affairs
- From faculty or staff, contact the appropriate vice president’s office
- About safety concerns, contact the Office of Public Safety
Approved prior to July 1975
Effective Date: July 1, 2018
Edited August, 2010
Revised May 2, 2018