Policies and Regulations
Policies and Regulations
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POL 04.05.01 - Free Speech Event Policy

Authority: Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs


  • First Issued: April 2006.
  • Last Revised: May 22, 2012.

Related Policies:

Additional References:

Contact Info: Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, 910.521.6175; Director of Student Conduct, 910.521.6851


1.1 In order to carry out the university’s responsibility to promote free expression and the exchange of ideas in an atmosphere of mutual respect for the rights of those who wish to speak, those who wish to hear, and those who wish to protest against the ideas expressed, The University of North Carolina at Pembroke has developed the standards for conduct at events and guidelines for facility use and reservations.


2.1 The standards set forth in this policy are intended to be content neutral and shall be applied without regard to the content of the speech.


3.1 The sponsor(s) of the event is the individual or group with primary responsibility for planning and executing the event. The sponsor may be the university itself, an individual or group within the university community, or an off-campus group.


4.1 Outdoor Facilities

4.1.1 The following areas may be used for outside speech events at UNCP by university affiliated or unaffiliated groups or individuals (See Appendix 1 for pictorial reference.):

4.1.1.a. Tommy Statue near University Center Lawn; and

4.1.1.b. Plaza near water feature at Faculty Row.

4.1.2 Locations may not be available during exam periods if expected noise level is determined to be objectively disruptive to the educational environment.

4.1.3 If an identified speech event area is closed by the university for an extended period, the vice chancellor for student affairs will identify an alternative site. Reservations to use outdoor facilities should be made twenty-four (24) hours in advance by contacting the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs. Individuals and groups affiliated with the university will be allowed to use the designated facilities with less notice if the vice chancellor for student affairs determines that the proposed use with notice of less than twenty-four hours would not be, to a reasonable person, objectively disruptive to the educational environment or the university’s operations. Equipment (i.e. tables, chairs, etc.) and technical requests (i.e. microphone, sound system, etc.) will require a forty-eight (48) hour notice to allow Facilities Operations time to set up.

4.2 Indoor. UNCP meeting rooms may be reserved for speech events. Sponsors must follow facility use policy and guidelines. An advance notice of four (4) work days for university affiliated groups or individuals and seven (7) work days for groups or individuals unaffiliated with the university is required.

4.3 The sponsor(s) must use the online Facilities Reservation System and abide by all rules and regulations outlined in this policy.


5.1 Rights. The right to dissent is the complement of the right to speak, but these rights need not occupy the same forum at the same time. The speaker is entitled to communicate his/her message to the audience during her/his allotted time, and the audience is entitled to hear the message and see the speaker during that time. The dissenter must not substantially interfere with the speaker’s ability to communicate or the audience’s ability to hear and see the speaker. It is also unacceptable for such dissent to interfere with the free flow of traffic into or out of the event or to interfere substantially with the speaker’s communication.

5.2 Some examples of dissent. The following guidelines, which are neither comprehensive nor absolute, suggest the limits of acceptable dissent.

5.2.1 Picketing, literature. Picketing in an orderly way or distributing literature outside the speech event is acceptable unless it interferes with the free flow of traffic into or out of the meeting. Distributing literature is acceptable inside an event before the event is called to order or after the meeting is adjourned. The sponsor(s) and dissenters are required to clean up debris immediately after the event (e.g. brochures, signs, flyers, chalk, etc.).

5.2.2 Silent or symbolic protest. Displaying a sign, wearing clothing symbolic of particular ideas, gesturing, standing, or otherwise protesting noiselessly is acceptable unless such action substantially interferes with the audience’s view or hearing of the speaker. The first effort in dealing with interference should be to ask the protestors to move to the side or back of the room.

5.2.3 Noise. Responding vocally to the speaker, chanting, or making other sustained or repeated noise, spontaneously and temporarily, is acceptable, especially if reaction against the speaker is similar in kind and degree to reaction in his or her favor. If noise, whether in support of or in opposition to the speaker, substantially interferes with the speaker’s ability to speak or with the audience’s ability to hear the speaker, a first warning should be expressed to those responsible explaining that continued disruptive interference could lead to expulsion from the meeting.

5.2.4 At no time should the speech event interfere with the educational services provided at UNC Pembroke. Free speech events scheduled during exam weeks will be designated by the vice chancellor for student affairs on a semester by semester basis. Speech event participants must not block entrances into facilities. A distance of at least 10 feet must be maintained between speech event participants and building entrances. All participants are required to adhere to N.C.G.S.14-132 - Disorderly conduct in and injuries to public buildings and facilities.

5.2.5 Force or violence. Physical force or violence against another person, threatening to use physical force or violence against another person, or intentionally restraining another’s freedom of movement, are never permitted and are serious violations of personal rights. A personal space clearance of a least five feet is required between the speaker and the dissenting members of the audience during any event. Law enforcement authorities may use force consistent with the rules of law and to restore order.

5.3 The speaker’s responsibility. The speaker must respect the right to dissent. The speaker may continue with the speech even through picketing, silent or symbolic protest, or noise as discussed in 5.2.1, 5.2.2, and 5.2.3.

5.4 The audience’s responsibility. The audience must respect the right to dissent. A member of the audience or the sponsoring organization who substantially interferes with acceptable dissent is violating these guidelines, to the same extent as the dissenter who violates the rights of the speaker or audience, and may be asked to leave by campus police.


6.1 When space is reserved for a speech event, the vice chancellor for student affairs, regardless of sponsorship, shall determine whether the protection of free speech at an open event requires measures to provide beyond normal security.

6.2 Upon making a determination that security measures are required, the chancellor or his designee, acting through the UNCP Office of Police and Public Safety, will have and will exercise the responsibility to determine the nature and extent of security measures required.

6.3 When the speech is closed, the sponsoring organization will ordinarily be responsible for funding extraordinary security measures required by the university.


7.1 Violation of the free speech rights of any person, as described in this policy, will be treated as a violation of university policy. Violators may be subject to one or more of the following university sanctions:   

7.1.a. expulsion from the meeting or event;

7.1.b. disciplinary proceedings under the UNC Pembroke Student Code of Conduct such as disruptive, endangering, or threatening behavior, etc. described in the UNCP Student Handbook;

7.1.c. disciplinary procedures for faculty and staff as described by human resources guidelines; and

7.1.d. in addition, behavior that constitutes a violation of law may result in arrest and criminal prosecution.


8.1 Appendix 1: UNC Pembroke Free Speech Event Zones