Speech and Assembly
Policy Number: 174
Speech and assembly
Employees, students, and others attempting to speak or assemble on property owned or controlled by the university
- Date Reviewed:
- June 2020
- Responsible Office:
- Office of the Senior Executive Vice President, Chief Operating and Financial Officer; Office of the Executive Vice President and Chief Academic Officer
- Responsible Executive:
- Senior Executive Vice President, Chief Operating and Financial Officer; Executive Vice President and Chief Academic Officer
I. POLICY AND GENERAL STATEMENT
The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston ("university") supports the freedoms of speech and assembly, subject to its well-established right to regulate time, place and manner to ensure the activities do not intrude upon or interfere with its academic programs and administrative processes. Except as expressly authorized under applicable state and federal law, the Regents' Rules and Regulations and university policies, the university shall not discriminate on the basis of political, religious, philosophical, ideological or academic viewpoint expressed by any person, either in the enforcement and administration of these rules or otherwise.
All rallies, group demonstrations or public oratory must be conducted in accordance with this policy.
Expressive Activities: any speech or expressive conduct protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution or by Section 8, Article I, Texas Constitution, and includes assemblies, protests, speeches, the distribution of written material, the carrying of signs, and the circulation of petitions. The term does not include commercial speech (e.g., vendors selling or advertising products).
Common Outdoor Areas: an outdoor space owned or controlled by the university that is not used for dedicated university business or an event, educational function or a research function on either a permanent or temporary basis (if on a temporary basis, the area may be a common outdoor area when not in use for such purposes). It does not include the outside surfaces (walls) of a university building, surfaces associated with or connected to a university building, a university structure, spaces dedicated to temporary outdoor banners, spaces dedicated to temporary outdoor exhibits, or any other space within the university’s limited public forum. It also does not include parking garages or parking lots.
Limited Public Forum: any part of the university campus, including any building or property owned or controlled by the university, other than common outdoor areas.
Off-Campus Speaker: an individual who is unaffiliated with the university and is presented as a speaker by a registered student or employee organization or a member of the general public on the university’s campus.
A. General Time, Place and Manner Restrictions
No speech, expressive activities or assembly may be conducted in a way that disrupts or interferes with:
(1) teaching, research, administration, patient care, public service, university housing, function of the university or any other authorized activities on the university campus;
(2) free and unimpeded flow of pedestrian and vehicular traffic on campus; or
(3) expressive activities by other persons or organizations permitted under this policy.
Additionally, individuals engaged in expressive activities are prohibited from:
(1) wearing a mask, facial covering, or disguise that conceals the identity of the wearer, that is calculated to obstruct the enforcement of these rules or the law, or to intimidate, hinder or interrupt a university official, law enforcement officer, or other person in the lawful performance of their duty (exceptions may be made for religious attire);
(2) possession, use, or display of firearms, facsimile firearms, ammunition, explosives, or other items that could be used as weapons, including but not limited to sticks, poles, clubs, swords, shields, glass objects or rigid signs that can be used as a shield, unless authorized by federal, state or local laws;
(3) wearing body-armor or make shift body-armor, helmets and other garments, such as sporting protective gear, that alone or in combination could be reasonably construed as weapons or body-armor; and/or
(4) having an open flame, unless advanced permission is obtained from the Vice President and Chief Auxiliary Enterprises Officer.
(5) possessing, distributing or using alcohol on university property, except in accordance with HOOP 9, Alcoholic Beverages.
By necessity, these restrictions are context-specific; therefore, university officials and The University of Texas Police – Houston (“UTP-H”) have discretion to apply these restrictions as appropriate to particular situations or events. UTP-H may immediately enforce these rules if a violation of these rules constitutes a breach of the peace or compromises public safety. Any individual or group that disagrees with the application of such restrictions to a particular situation may access the grievance process outlined in Section III.E below.
B. Common Outdoor Areas
All common outdoor areas of the university’s campus are traditional public forums. As such, any person may engage in expressive activities in common outdoor areas, so long as the person’s conduct is not unlawful and does not materially and substantially disrupt the functioning of the university.
Members of the public are not permitted to set up tables, kiosks, banners, exhibits, or speakers/ amplified sound in common outdoor areas. Members of the public are also not permitted to affix signs to university buildings or structures or to stake signs in the ground. Employees, students or registered student or employee organizations that wish to set up tables, kiosks, banners, exhibits, speakers/amplified sound or to post signs in common outdoor areas must follow the process in Section III.C.
Individuals or groups that intend to use the university’s common outdoor areas are strongly encouraged to provide at least two weeks’ notice to the Vice President and Chief Auxiliary Enterprises Officer so that appropriate security and other arrangements may be made.
Expressive activities in common outdoor areas are subject to the time, place and manner restrictions in Section III.A above.
C. Use of Other University Property
Except for common outdoor areas, all other property and facilities owned or controlled by the university are designated as a limited public forum and therefore, are not open to the general public.
Employees and students or registered employee and student organizations may petition, post signs, distribute literature, set up tables and exhibits or peacefully demonstrate on property owned or controlled by the university, provided that the posting of signs and the setting up of tables and exhibits requires the prior authorization of the Vice President and Chief Auxiliary Enterprises Officer. All such activities are subject to the restrictions in Section III.A above.
D. Regulation of Off-Campus Speakers
The university reserves the right to regulate the presentation of guest speakers on the campus who are not affiliated with the university.
Any organization or person may present an off-campus speaker in the university’s common outdoor areas, subject to the restrictions in Sections III.A and III.B and HOOP 165, Solicitation.
Only registered student or employee organizations may present off-campus speakers on the campus in areas other than common outdoor areas. Sponsoring groups must submit a request for the use of a facility in accordance with HOOP 11, Use of University Facilities or HOOP 211, Special Use Facilities.
Any determination regarding the approval of or the fee for use of a university facility for presenting an off-campus speaker:
(1) will consider only content-neutral and viewpoint-neutral criteria related to the needs of the event, such as:
a. the proposed venue and expected size of the audience;
b. any anticipated need for campus security;
c. any necessary accommodations; and
d. any relevant history of compliance or non-compliance by the requesting student or employee organization with this policy or other relevant university policies.
(2) will not consider any anticipated controversy related to the event.
The organization sponsoring the off-campus speaker has the responsibility for making clear that the organization, not the university, is extending the invitation to speak, and that any views the speaker expresses are his or her own and are not necessarily those of the university.
An off-campus speaker is subject to all provisions of federal, state and local laws.
When an off-campus speaker is paid from state funds for his or her speech, the facilities in which the speech is delivered will be open to the public, including members of the news media (HOOP 5, Communications with the Media), who will be entitled to record, videotape or telecast live portions of the speech.
No person may in any way obstruct or lessen the opportunity for the audience to take the fullest advantage of the speech, including the opportunity to see and hear the speaker during the entire speech. The provisions of this paragraph do not apply to classes, seminars, symposia and conferences intended for students, faculty, staff and invited guests.
E. Grievance Procedure
Any person wishing to report a violation of this policy or of Texas Education Code 51.9315 should report it to the university’s Office of Institutional Compliance.
F. Disciplinary Sanctions
Any student who unduly interferes with the expressive activities of others on campus will be subject to disciplinary action in accordance with HOOP 186, Student Conduct and Discipline.
Any employee who unduly interferes with the expressive activities of others on campus will be subject to disciplinary action in accordance with applicable university policies and procedures, which may include HOOP 44, Faculty Reappointment and Non-Reappointment, HOOP 133, Faculty Termination, HOOP 153, Termination of Appointment: Administrative and Professional and/or HOOP 187, Discipline and Dismissal of Classified Employees.
Any student organization that unduly interferes with the expressive activities of others on campus will be subject to disciplinary action and/or revocation of registration. See also HOOP 110, Student Organizations.
Members of the public who violate this policy are subject to appropriate law enforcement or administrative action, including prohibition from entering campus property.
Solicitation is prohibited on the university's campus except as specifically allowed in HOOP 165, Solicitation on Campus.
H. Impermissible Activity
No person, including a student or employee of the university, shall distribute any petition, handbill, object or piece of literature; post or carry any sign, placard or banner; or engage in speech, either orally or in writing, or conduct on property or in buildings or facilities owned or controlled by the university if it is obscene, libelous or directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and/or is likely to incite or produce such action.
Further, no person may engage in expressive activities that violate any other university policy, including but not limited to: HOOP 38, Political Activity; HOOP 39, Campus and Workplace Violence Prevention; HOOP 59, Prohibition of Sexual Harassment & Sexual Misconduct; HOOP 180, Acceptable Use of University Information Resources; HOOP 183, Nondiscrimination, Anti-Harassment and Equal Opportunity and HOOP 219, Social Media.
- Office of the Senior Executive Vice President, Chief Operating Officer
- Office of Executive Vice President and Chief Academic Officer