Free Speech and Expression under the First Amendment
College is meant to be a place where people can freely share ideas and opinions. But what happens when we don’t like what we hear? And what if this happens outside of the classroom? Here’s what you need to know about free speech and expression in public areas.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why does Belmont College allow people and organizations to freely speak, express, or demonstrate on campus?
The U.S. Constitution protects free speech and expression in public forums. As a public college, Belmont College is legally required to allow people to speak on sidewalks and other open areas of campus. Just because Belmont College is legally required by the Constitution to allow free speech on campus grounds does not mean the College agrees with or endorses what is being said.
Can Belmont College stop a person’s speech, expression, or demonstration?
Most forms of expression are protected, even if offensive or hateful. Expressive activities on Belmont College’s campus, such as speech, distributing information, or displaying signs, may be subject to reasonable limits to the time, place, and manner of the activities (such as prohibiting excessive noise that disrupts learning in the classroom, and prohibiting activity that impedes vehicle or pedestrian traffic).
Safety is something the College takes very seriously, and if altercations occur, police will ensure the safety of everyone. Free speech and expression does not protect violent or criminal behavior.
Is hate speech legally protected?
Hateful or offensive speech is protected by the Constitution in the same way that popular or uncontroversial speech is protected. Free speech does not include speech directed at a specific person that is likely to provoke the average person to violence.
Can a person’s speech and expression be considered legal harassment?
If you are able to stop listening and walk away, it’s unlikely that a court would find a person’s speech, expression or demonstration to meet the legal definition of harassment.
Is there anything else I need to know about free speech and expression on campus?
Students: Check your email for important course information.