skip to main content

The Gertrude C. Ford Ole Miss Student Union

The University of Mississippi

Free Speech and the First Amendment

Freedom of expression is not simply a right guaranteed by the First Amendment, it is fundamental to the University of Mississippi’s mission. The mission of the University is to create, evaluate, share and apply knowledge in a free, open and inclusive environment of intellectual inquiry. Students are encouraged to freely examine and exchange diverse ideas inside and outside of the classroom without fear of retribution, intimidation or coercion. 

This website provides campus resources as well as information pertaining to the First Amendment and Free Speech on the University of Mississippi campus.


What is Free Speech?

“Free speech” or “expressive activity” shall mean any speech, expression, assembly, petition or other conduct protected by the First Amendment notwithstanding what form it may occur, including, but not limited to, spoken or written word, protests, worship, leafleting, demonstrations, marches, picketing, rallies, vigils or parades.


What is Spontaneous Free Speech?

To facilitate robust debate and the free exchange of ideas, students may use publicly accessible areas of campus for their individual, spontaneous free speech. The use is on a first-come, first- served basis, unless the area is reserved for a University event or University-approved function. Although prior reservations are not required for individual spontaneous free speech, students are encouraged to contact the Ole Miss Student Union Department (“OMSU”) in advance to minimize possible scheduling conflicts.


What types of Free Speech are not protected by the First Amendment?

The University has long recognized that freedom of expression is vital to the pursuit of knowledge. Any person engaged in spontaneous or planned free speech on University property must comply with this policy and all other applicable University policy and law.

Under no circumstances may University property and resources be used for illegal activity. No speech or expressive conduct will be permitted that is unlawful, incites imminent lawless action and is likely produce that result or involves violence or true threats of violence directed at a particular individual or specific group of individuals.

No free speech or expressive activity may: (i) block any entrance, exit, doorway or passage way, (ii) impede or interfere with the University’s ability to hold classes, (iii) substantially disrupt University operations or business, classroom instruction, student-led study, laboratory work or research, (iv) obstruct pedestrian, bicycle or vehicular traffic, (v) substantially disrupt any university sponsored or recognized event or (vi) vandalize, damage, deface or destroy University property.

Third Party Individuals and Organizations

Third-parties not otherwise sponsored by a student or RSO who seek to plan an event on public University property, should refer to the policy on third party free expression and use of space. Certain areas of University property are not open for general public use. The University maintains a position of neutrality as it relates to third-party free speech. A third-party’s presence on University property does not mean that the University either endorses, sponsors or approves of the third-party’s speech. A third-party does not speak for or on behalf of the University, nor does a third-party’s access to or presence on University property imply a relationship or association with the University.


Fronting

University property is not a place of unrestricted public access. As a public institution of higher learning, the University may only use its property in furtherance of its educational, research and service missions. When seeking to register an event involving expressive activity, students and RSOs must disclose and explain any third-party’s involvement with the event. Students and RSOs may not reserve University property for a third-party without abiding by applicable University policy or so that a third-party may use University property at a reduced rate not otherwise applicable to third-parties. Both instances are examples of “fronting” and are prohibited.


Reasonable Time, Place and Manner Limitations

Students and RSOs do not have unrestricted access to University property for expressive activity. The University, including UPD, may impose content and viewpoint neutral time, place and manner limitations on spontaneous or planned free speech, no more than reasonably necessary: (i) to ensure the health and safety of all persons on University property, (ii) to protect University property, (iii) to protect the legal rights of all persons on University property, (iv) to prohibit unlawful activity, or (v) to prohibit the disruption of the University’s operations or its educational, research and service missions.

Further, the University’s buildings, facilities and grounds may have specific requirements regarding occupancy, hours of use, purpose and functionality that may render them either unavailable or unsuitable for every requested use. The University may impose these and other content and viewpoint neutral limitations while providing ample alternative means for free speech and expressive activity on campus.


Prohibited Items and Devices

The University must maintain the safety and security of its campus and University community. The following items are prohibited during spontaneous or planned free speech but leave open ample alternative means for free speech and expressive activity.

  • Weapons, as proscribed in the University’s Weapons on Campus policy (CHA.LM.300.001), are prohibited.
  • Fireworks, torches, explosives, blasting agents, detonators and any other incendiary devices are prohibited. Flames, fire, or the burning or igniting of any item is prohibited.
  • Animals are prohibited during any exercise of planned or organized free speech. Allowances will be made for service animals.
  • Masks, disguises and any other means of concealing one’s face or identity are prohibited, except as provided for herein. Nothing in this provision prohibits the wearing of cultural or religious apparel.  Students are authorized to wear face coverings/masks where necessary to comply with University policy and public health recommendations intended to prevent or slow the spread of COVID-19.
  • The wearing of protective gear, body armor, shields, metal spikes, chainmail or helmets is prohibited.
  • Banners, signs and flags must be held or carried by hand and may not be attached to any metal, wood, pole, PVC pipe or stick of any kind.