Alfred University (“University”) is committed to an environment where the open expression of ideas and open, vigorous debate and speech are valued, promoted, and encouraged. As a community of scholars, we affirm these freedoms of thought, inquiry, speech, and assembly. This Policy reaffirms Alfred’s unwavering commitment to a community that inspires and supports courageous inquiry through open expression, dissent, and protest, while acknowledging the challenges of the creative tensions associated with courageous inquiry in an ever-changing community.
In that the rights of free speech and lawful assembly are fundamental to the democratic process, the University supports the rights of all members of the academic community to freely express their views, by works and actions, and to protest against actions and opinion with which they disagree. The University also recognizes a concurrent obligation to maintain upon the University campus an atmosphere conducive to academic work and freedom, to preservation of the dignity of University ceremonies and public exercises, and to respect the rights of all individuals.
While expressing his/her convictions as an individual or member of a group, each member of the academic community is expected at all times to conduct him/herself reasonably and responsibly, and to respect the educational processes and goals of the University and the rights of others. Orderly demonstrations on University premises that do not interfere materially with the educational processes or endanger the safety of the academic community are permitted. Such demonstrations must not limit, interfere with or infringe upon the equal rights of others to express their conviction, to safe counter-demonstrations or to participate in the activities or programs being demonstrated against. The individual’s rights of free speech and lawful assembly do not confer upon those who exercise them a license to limit, interfere with or infringe upon the equal rights of others’ free speech, lawful assembly, free association, privacy and the pursuit of education without unnecessary interference.
The Dean of Student Wellbeing is responsible for enforcing this policy. The Dean of Student Wellbeing may send designees on his/her behalf during Events to enforce this Policy.
The following individuals are considered members of the Alfred University Community for purposes of this Policy:
- Student: Includes all persons registered for classes at any location of the University (including courses taught outside the United States or at another off-site location), either full-time or part-time, pursuing undergraduate, graduate, or professional studies. Persons who withdraw after allegedly engaging in proscribed conduct, who are not officially enrolled for a particular term but who have a continuing relationship with the University, or who have enrolled but not yet attended classes, are considered “students.”
- Persons who are employed by Alfred University as faculty or staff, and persons who are employed by contracted entities to provide a service to Alfred University and whose work location is on any of Alfred’s multiple campus locations.
- Alumni of the University when returning to campus or to official University events.
- Invited guests of the University such as guest speakers, panelists, artists, performers, participants, etc. for events, both on and off campus.
Meetings and Events (“Meetings” or “Events”)
Gatherings of members of the Community in a location specifically designated for that purpose. Events are generally considered to be public. Meetings are generally considered to be private.
The fundamental right of expression of counterpoint(s) through symbols, speech, expression, satire, flyers or leaflets, action, and other comparable forms of expression.
Dissent with the goal of change, which may attract attention. Protests may include an actual gathering of people to bring attention to the cause, such as picketing, rallies, sit-ins, vigils, or similar forms of expression. Protest may also include more individually-based forms of Dissent such as posting flyers, wearing t-shirts or arm bands, and other similar actions.
Internal vs. External Dissent
The University acknowledges that some protest may be externally focused, meaning the topic of protest is directed at some broader issue beyond the University. Examples may include protesting local legislation or global social injustices, among others. The University also acknowledges that some protest may be internally focused, directed at the leadership of the institution, at decisions made by faculty or administrators, or toward other members of the Community with whom one disagrees. Both forms of protest are protected and affirmed.
This Policy is paramount to other policies of the University that may conflict, except those grounded in local, state, or national law.
Filing Complaints to the Committee for Open Expression
The University seeks to actively promote open expression within our Community. As such, this Policy enumerates an investigation procedure for those members who believe their rights under this Policy have been violated.
Alfred University respects free speech and assembly. As such, the only responsibilities outlined in this section that limit the free exercise thereof have been done in a way to ensure maximum open expression and narrowly tailoring exceptions to specific safety or community concerns.
Awareness of Community Responsibilities
Each member of the Community is expected to know and follow this Policy. A person who violates these standards or other policies of the University in the course of open expression may be held accountable for that conduct. Any member of the Community who is in doubt as to the propriety of planned conduct may seek guidance from the Dean of Student Wellbeing in advance of the Event.
Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Expression: Joint Standards
Expression that communicates a viewpoint, regardless of form, is protected as long as it does not violate this Policy. This includes protest, dissent, and any other communicative activity, whether or not it occurs in the context of a Meeting or Event.
The right to Dissent is the complement of the right to speak, but these rights may conflict at certain times. The University promotes simultaneous, but not disruptive, Dissent. As such, during a scheduled Event or Meeting, a speaker is entitled to communicate a message to an audience during an allotted time, and the audience is entitled to hear the message and see the speaker during that time. A dissenter must not substantially interfere with the speaker’s ability to communicate or the audience’s ability to hear, see, or question the speaker. Protests outside of a Meeting, Event, or another Protest shall not impede access to the Meeting, Event, or Protest nor substantially interfere with the communication at the Meeting, Event, or Protest.
Standards for Scheduling Meetings, Protests, and Events for both Indoor and Outdoor Locations
It is the policy of the University to protect voluntary assembly and to make its facilities available for assembly. Each University unit that includes gathering spaces for Meeting and Events shall establish a process for scheduling. Reservations shall not be denied to any member of the Community based on content of the Meeting, Event, or Dissent unless such content would otherwise violate the responsibilities set forth in this Policy.
The Dean of Student Wellbeing should be consulted whenever possible before denying a request for use of a room, facility, or space by an organization recognized by the University for a reason other than prior assignment of the room, facility, or space. The University shall not deny recognition to a recognized organization because of disagreement with its mission or the viewpoints that it represents.
In order to afford maximum protection to the demonstration or protest, demonstrators and the academic community, the Dean of Student Wellbeing or designee, should be given 24 hours’ notice of any planned demonstration, its proposed locale, and the object of intended protest.
The University reserves the right to decline to permit, and/or to require cessation of, Meetings, Events, [or] Protests [or demonstrations] under circumstances where the University determines that their occurrence may endanger the health or safety of persons or University property despite reasonable and available precautions.
Violation of Community Responsibilities
Part of the Alfred University’s mission is to help support the right to expression, Dissent, and Protest. An affirmative commitment to helping rectify violations through support and alternatives shall be the appropriate course of action.
The Dean of Student Wellbeing should be consulted whenever reasonably possible before making a determination that members of the Community are indeed violating the principles of this Policy.
Community members, in the course of their actions, violate this Policy if they:
- Unreasonably infringe on the rights of other Community members to engage in open expression, Protest, and Dissent.
- Cause substantial disruption to a Meeting or Event that impedes the rights of attendees of that Meeting or Event, including excessive noise, continually interrupting a speaker, or preventing an audience from seeing/engaging with a speaker during a Meeting or Event.
- Create undue hardship that substantially impedes a Community member’s right to open expression, such as unreasonable use or enforcement of space reservation or usage policies.
Violation of Other Policies that relate to Open Expression
Community members, in the course of their actions, violate other policies of the University (such as the Student Code of Conduct) and are no longer operating within the spirit of Open Expression at Alfred if:
- They violate any federal, state, local or other applicable law (e.g., gaining unauthorized access to restricted areas, refusing to leave restricted areas if instructed, defacing of public and/or private property, etc.).
- They interfere unreasonably with the activities or rights of other persons. Factors that may be considered in determining whether conduct is reasonable include, but are not limited to, the time of day, size of audience, and noise level of a Meeting, Event, or Protest.
- They interfere unreasonably with the general operations of the University.
- They knowingly interfere with unimpeded movement in a University location. Examples may include impeding or preventing access to or egress from a building, or blocking any entrances or exits in a way that causes safety concerns.
- They cause injury to persons or property or threaten to cause such injury.
- They expressly or implicitly use or threaten violence or force, or encourage others to use or threaten violence or force.
- They cause harassment, as defined by state law (NY Penal Law 240.25, NY Penal Law 240.26 or NY Penal Law 240.30) or action that violates the University’s Discrimination, Harassment and Sexual Misconduct Policy.
- They violate reasonable noise levels, such as but not limited to Alfred Village noise ordinance or the Alfred University Code of Conduct.
Supporting Expression, Protest, and Dissent through University Space
There are many locations on campus especially conducive to Expression, Protest, and Dissent. The Dean of Student Wellbeing can assist with reservations of some spaces on campus or assist in connecting with owners of other spaces.
The following locations are not available for these types of Events, Meetings, or Protests unless a special exception is granted; however, if the focus of the Expression, Protest, or Dissent includes one of these areas, there is an affirmative support to ensure protests occur in places like the outdoor spaces in front of the buildings or common gathering places close to these locations.
- Private offices, research laboratories or associated facilities, and computer centers.
- Specific areas of offices, museums, libraries, and other facilities that contain valuable or sensitive materials, collections, equipment, and records protected by law, or by existing University policy such as educational records, student-related or personnel-related records, or financial records.
- Classrooms, seminar rooms, auditoriums, meeting rooms, or outdoor spaces in which classes, private Events, or Meetings are being held or are scheduled to be held during the time of the Protest.
- Outdoor and indoor locations when the free flow of traffic, vehicular and/or pedestrian, is unreasonably impeded; when entrances or exits to private offices, classrooms, and meeting spaces are blocked or obstructed; or when undue health and safety risks are created.
- The Wellness Center and surrounding green space or grounds (including, but not limited to, sidewalks, access roads, parking areas, etc.), Office of Public Safety, Office of Environmental Health & Safety, communication systems, utilities, or other facilities or services vital to the continued functioning of the University.
Protests in Spaces that have not been reserved
We fully support and acknowledge as a Community that sometimes impromptu Expression, Dissent, and Protest are pivotal to achieve the principles of this Policy. Not having a reservation is not sufficient reason for terminating any Protest unless the impromptu Protest unreasonably interferes with prior scheduled Meetings, Events, or essential operations of the University. The Dean of Student Wellbeing or designee shall allow impromptu Expression, Dissent, or Protest that otherwise complies with this policy to continue until it should otherwise be relocated to allow for prior scheduled activities. To encourage such impromptu Dissent, the Dean of Student Wellbeing or designee shall demonstrate this affirmative commitment by working with those involved to identify space where the Expression, Protest, or Dissent can be continued should the space being used interfere with other scheduled Meetings, Events, or essential operations.
All general outdoor public areas of the institution, even those that have reservation procedures, should be available for impromptu Expression, Protest, and Dissent unless it otherwise violates this policy. Requirements to reserve space should not be unreasonable in terms of time frame, requirements, or costs to the group wishing to host the Event. No group or organization recognized by the University should be denied use of a space on campus because of the content of the Meeting, Event, or Protest, unless such content would otherwise violate the responsibilities set forth in this Policy.
Flyers, signs, displays, etc.
In the use of flyers, chalking, signs, and displays, persons expressing themselves should follow all applicable flyer posting policies and banner reservation rules; however, these requirements should not be unreasonable in terms of access, time frame, requirements, or costs to the group. No form of expression should be denied because of the content of the flyer, sign, or display within the limits of our policy. Additionally, a member of the Community who defaces the permissible open expression of others will be held in violation of this policy.
Administration and Enforcement
It is the responsibility of the Dean Students or designee to protect and maintain the right of open expression under this policy.
- Observation of Meetings, Events or Protests, when deemed necessary by the Dean of Student Wellbeing to protect and maintain open expression, shall be the charge of the Dean of Student Wellbeing, who may delegate such responsibility. This Observer shall have full authority to act in the name of the Dean of Student Wellbeing under this policy.
- Except in emergencies, the Dean of Student Wellbeing’s authority under this policy shall not be delegated to employees of the Alfred Police Department. Emergencies, for purposes of this clause, are defined as situations that include any of the following: imminent risk of serious bodily harm; serious threat; imminent life threatening behavior; reckless disregard for human life; or threat to life, limb, property or essential University operations.
- The Observer shall identify himself or herself to those responsible for the Meeting or Event or to the leaders of the Protest.
- Any Observer who attends a Meeting, Event, or Protest shall reasonably attempt to respect the privacy of those involved.
The Dean of Student Wellbeing shall work with Protestors or Dissenters to identify ways to continue the Expression, Protest, or Dissent with modifications to avoid future violations. The spirit of this policy is to protect the right of Protestors to do so while ensuring the narrow exceptions in this policy are no longer being violated.
- The Dean of Student Wellbeing is responsible for enforcing the policy and may work with anyone whose behavior is violating or threatens to violate this policy to modify or terminate such behavior. The instruction shall include notice that failure or refusal to comply is a further violation of this policy. However, an instruction or warning by the Dean of Student Wellbeing is not a prerequisite for a finding that a violation has occurred.
- When the Dean of Student Wellbeing or other appropriate University official declares that an individual or a group has violated this policy, they may request to examine their University or other identification. The hosts of invited guests may also be asked to provide their identification.
Terminations or Arrests because of Violations of this Policy
Termination of an event or any referrals to outside agencies such as law enforcement should be the option of last resort. Avoidance of injury to persons by the continuation of a Meeting, Event, or Protest is a key factor in determining whether it should be involuntarily terminated. Property damage and significant interference with educational processes are also factors to be considered and may be of sufficient magnitude to warrant forcible termination.
Violations of Other University Policies
All violations shall be handled in the following manner:
- Cases involving students are referred to the Office of Student Conduct who investigates the Event and decides what conduct proceedings, if any, to pursue.
- Cases involving faculty are referred to the appropriate Dean or to the Provost.
- Cases involving University staff or administrators are referred to that individual’s supervisor, any other person with supervisory responsibility for that individual, or Human Resources.
Revised August 2018