Free Expression

Rutgers University’s Commitment to Free Expression

All members of the Rutgers University community—our faculty members, students, alumni, and staff—are free to express their viewpoints in public forums. This includes viewpoints that may differ from the majority of people in the University community.

Rutgers University does not restrict the activities of recognized university organizations, including the speakers they invite to campus, provided organizations obey the law and follow University policy and guidelines regarding these events.

What Should I Know About Free Expression On Campus?

Public universities cannot regulate speech in public forums and must remain neutral in subject matter and viewpoint.

Certain locations on campus are not public forums and are not available for events, meetings, or demonstrations unless an exemption is granted. These include:

  • Private offices and research laboratories
  • Facilities with sensitive materials, equipment or records such as some offices, museums, and libraries
  • Classrooms or meeting spaces where classes or other activities are already being held
  • Health Services, CAPS, and other clinical facilities

Expressive activities should not disrupt normal University operations. Be aware of activities that might:

  • Block access to campus buildings
  • Obstruct the free movement of persons about campus

What Is Not Considered Free Expression?

Individuals and groups may be found in violation of University policy if they engage in the following actions or behaviors:

  • Unreasonably infringing on others’ rights to free expression at demonstrations, events or programs
  • Threaten individuals or cause an injury to someone
  • Harass, threaten violence, or intimidate others
  • Violate the law or University policy
  • Enter a restricted area without authorization

Tips for Planning a Demonstration or Expressive Activity

Prior to the Event:

During the Event:

  • Speak with Demonstration Response Team Members: The Demonstration Response Team is made up of staff members from Student Affairs in attendance. Let them know who is in charge from your organization and what the plan for the event entails. The Demonstration Team is there for observation purposes only but will work with the organization and RUPD if intervention is needed.
  • Communicate Your Plan to Attendees: Meet with organization members and demonstration participants to discuss the purpose of the event and what they should do if confronted by threats, harassment, or violence during the event. Groups should not respond physically – someone should call 911 immediately. Attendees should also be aware of University policies and procedures, as they also can be held responsible for their actions.
  • Report safety concerns promptly: If something occurs and you need assistance call 911 immediately.

After the Event:

  • Follow up with members and participants to debrief the event.
  • Meet with Campus Advisor to think about next steps.

Recording in Public Areas

Participants may use recording devices or cameras at events that are open to the public, provided it is in compliance with the University Code of Student Conduct (see Section VII.M. Undisclosed Recording).

Still Have Questions?

When in doubt please feel free to contact a staff member in Student Centers and Involvement, one of the Cultural Centers, or a staff member in the Dean of Students Office. We can answer questions about public forums on campus, assist with planning, and provide you with access to University policies and procedures.

Information and Resources

Office of the Dean of Students

Student Centers and Involvement

Asian America Cultural Center

Center for Latino Arts and Culture

Center for Social Justice Education and LGBT Communities

Paul Robeson Cultural Center

Rutgers University Police