A. Statement of Philosophy
Gettysburg College is committed to providing an environment where social and political issues and ideas are openly discussed and explored. The freedom to express ideas, exchange views and to engage in protest is essential to the life of the College. Gettysburg College affords all members of the student body substantial privileges with respect to freedom of speech and expression.
The College recognizes that some ideas will be viewed as offensive and disagreeable by some, perhaps even most, members of the community. Participating in a community where there is a diverse range of opinions, perspectives, and experiences is rewarding for all community members and the College is committed to fostering and celebrating this experience. It is expected that diverse views and opinions will, at times, create conflict and disagreement among members of the community. A genuine sharing of ideas, perspectives, and values presupposes both freedom and responsibility. Consequently, all members of the community are expected to engage in civil discourse, reasoned thought, sustained discussion, and constructive participation.
The College encourages its members to make independent judgments about the worth and validity of ideas and to contest ideas with which they disagree. Responsible dissent is a means of exposing errors in reasoning and the process of discovering truth. Any effort by members of the College community to limit openness in this academic community is a matter of serious concern and militates against the freedom of expression and the discovery of truth. Each member of the community is therefore free to express their point of view on, or opposition to, any issue of public interest within reasonable restrictions of time, place and manner. Each member of the community is also expected to help guarantee the ability of other community members to express themselves freely. No group or individual has the right to interfere with the legitimate activity of other authorized persons and groups as interference with expression compromises the College’s goal of creating an environment where issues can be openly discussed.
Postings, leaflets, chalking, and public gatherings are permissible unless they violate the specific provisions outlined in Sections B and C of the Freedom of Expression policy. These are the narrow exceptions to a policy that otherwise encourages and celebrates free expression of ideas and public debate.* The college will use the educational means at its disposal, including mediation, public forums, sponsorship of debate and discussions, to promote civil discourse and reasoned debate of key social and political issues of the day.
Gettysburg College subscribes to the wisdom in the words of Justice Louis D. Brandeis:
“If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.” (Whitney v. California, 274 U.S. 357, 1927)
B. Time, Place, and Manner Guidelines for Public Expression on Campus (Events)
- Demonstrations, speakers, the distribution or posting of leaflets, statements, petitions, chalking, and other forms of public expression are permitted on the campus within reasonable restrictions of time, place, and manner. Public expression includes assemblies, demonstrations, debates, forums, rallies, protests, picketing, speakers, etc. that are held on College property and are open to the general campus community.
- Public expression cannot be unlawful and must not violate or conflict with local, state, or federal laws.
- Public expression must not violate College policy and cannot jeopardize public or individual safety.
- The public expression of views and opinions cannot prevent, unduly obstruct, or interfere with the normal operations of the College. Normal operations of the College include:
- Academic activities, such as classes, labs, activities in any academic building, etc.
- Business activities of the College.
- Events or speakers hosted in accordance with College policy by academic departments, administrative departments, or registered student organizations.
- The functioning of the College’s Residence Hall communities.
- Access to any College facilities.
- Non-College individuals and organizations are not permitted to be involved in public expression on College property unless they are invited and sponsored by a recognized student organization.
- Sponsorship Responsibilities
A Sponsor, defined as a recognized College organization, academic department, or administrative department that invites a non-College individual or organization to speak or demonstrate on campus, shall have the following responsibilities:
- The Sponsor is responsible for assuring that the activities of the sponsored group are carried out in accord with the expectations delineated in the College Policy on Freedom of Public Expression and these guidelines that support the Policy.
- The Sponsor of any speaker, event, demonstration, etc. must be clearly identified in all publicity materials for the event, and at the beginning of the event itself.
- If the Vice President for College Life and Dean of Students (in consultation with other College staff/faculty members) determines that additional security measures are necessary to assure compliance with the Policy on Freedom of Public Expression, the Sponsor must agree to such additional security and shall be responsible for the cost of these additional security measures.
- Individual members of the College community can serve as sponsors only through the support of a recognized student organization.
- Prior Notice
- For public expression by members of the College community: Members of the College communities are encouraged to give prior notice of their plans to the Vice President for College Life and Dean of Students, at least 72 business hours prior to the event. Faculty members are encouraged to give prior notice of their plans to the Provost’s Office, at least 72 business hours prior to the event. This prior notice will help assure that this policy and these guidelines are followed.
- For public expression by non-members of the College community: Student organization sponsors (from the College community) of public expression activity by non-members of the College community must give prior notice of their plans to the Vice President for College Life and Dean of Students, at least thirty (30) business days prior to the event. This prior notice will help assure that this policy and these guidelines are followed.
- For public expression by members of the College community: The College reserves the right to relocate or suspend any assembly that becomes disruptive to the normal operations of the College or that violates College policy.
- For public expression by non-members of the College community: The College reserves the right to designate the location for these events, to help assure that this policy and these guidelines are followed.
- Amplification Equipment
The College reserves the right to restrict the use of outdoor amplification equipment in association with any public expression activity. The use of amplification for student protest or demonstration must be approved by the Vice President for College Life and Dean of Students in advance of the activity, to insure that its use does not create an unreasonable disruption to College activities.
- Building of Structures
The College reserves the right to restrict the building of any structure or the placement of flags, decorations or other objects in campus public space in association with public expression. No open flames or torches are allowed unless approved for a specific event by College Life. The building of any structure or placement of decorative objects on campus property must be approved by the Vice President for College Life and Dean of Students in advance of the activity, to insure that the structure does not create a safety hazard or an unreasonable disruption to College activities.
- Objections to Public Free Expression Activity
The College recognizes that individuals or groups may be opposed to certain acts of public expression. Disagreement with different opinions is acceptable; however, hindering or obstructing such activity compromises the College’s goal of creating an environment where issues can be openly discussed. An individual or group wishing to protest at an event may do so as long as:
- The protest is held in accord with the Time, Place, and Manner guidelines detailed in this policy.
- The speaker’s ability to speak and the audience’s right to see and to hear a speaker are not unreasonably impeded.
C. Time, Place, and Manner Guidelines for Public Distribution of Written Materials (Posting Policy)
Students and student organizations are permitted to publicly distribute written materials in accordance with this Policy and Guidelines on Freedom of Public Expression. Non-College Individuals and Organizations are not permitted to publicly distribute or post written materials on College property.
- Prohibited Content
Written materials which contain the following are prohibited and the College will remove postings, leaflets, or chalking which:
- Violate law or College policy
- Promote or incite behavior violating law or College policy
- Constitute a demonstrable threat or harassment
- Defame an individual
- Consist of obscene images, photos, or representations
- Unreasonably invade individual privacy
- Contain unapproved commercial advertisements
- Disrupt the normal operations of the College (as defined in Section B1-c of this policy)
- Location Guidelines for Posting of Written Materials
- General Guidelines
- Posting is permitted only on designated boards or other areas designated for posting or the exterior of Plank Gym (see item 3e of this policy below). No windows, including windows or glass panels in or beside doors, may be covered.
- Students or organizations posting information may place one (1) posting on each board or designated posting area.
- Postings on designated boards or posting areas may not exceed 11 inches by 17 inches in size.
- Individuals posting materials may not remove the postings placed by other groups and may not cover up other postings. Removing or covering the unexpired postings of other students or groups is a violation of this policy.
- Advertising events with alcohol is limited to only those events which are fully compliant with the Social Event Policy and approved by the College.
- Please see additional guidelines below (see items 3b-f of this policy below).
- College Union Building
Posting is permitted only on designated bulletin boards. No posting is permitted on boards designated for administrative department use.
- Academic and Administrative Buildings, Including the Library
Postings are permitted only on designated bulletin boards and designated posting areas (e.g. wall space which is clearly utilized as a posting area). No posting is permitted on boards designated for academic or administrative department use without permission from the department.
- Residence Halls
Postings are permitted only on designated bulletin boards and designated posting areas which may include one posting on hallway walls. No posting is permitted on boards designated for use by the Office of Residential and First Year Program without permission from the Office. No windows, including windows or glass panels in or beside doors, may be covered.
- Plank Gym - Exterior
Sheet signs and banners may be hung on the exterior of Plank Gym in accordance with this policy. Sheet signs may not cover, in whole or in part, other sheets signs on Plank. Due to the outdoor location and limited space, sheet signs may remain up for a period of one week.
- Other Locations
No postings may be made in any location other than those designated in these Guidelines without prior approval from the Vice President for College Life and Dean of Students.
- General Guidelines
- Information Required for Posting Written Materials
- Identification of Individual or Group Responsible for Posting
As stated in Section C of this policy above, students, student organizations, and academic or administrative departments are permitted to publicly distribute written materials. Any postings must clearly identify the name of the organization or individual responsible for the posting. In addition, contact information for the organization or individual must be included. Specifically, a valid Gettysburg College email address or valid Gettysburg College group alias email must be clearly visible on the poster.
- Dates and Time Period for Posting
- All postings must be dated. For posters advertising events which must include the date of the event, posters may go up no more than 2 weeks prior to the event and must be taken down by the sponsoring organization or individual within 24 hours of the conclusion of the event.
- Posters which are not affiliated with an event must include the posting date. These posters may remain up for no more than 2 weeks and must be taken down promptly after two weeks.
- Any out of date postings may be removed by the College.
- Identification of Individual or Group Responsible for Posting
Chalking is permitted on concrete walkways and plazas. Chalking is not permitted on buildings, walls, covered entryways, or covered patio areas. It is a violation of policy to remove chalking placed on campus in accordance with this policy. Chalking in non-sanctioned areas may be removed by the College.
D. Campus Media Organizations
- The principles of free inquiry, expression, and dissent articulated above also apply to student communications media of Gettysburg College. The freedom of student editors and managers entails corollary responsibilities to be governed by the canons of responsible journalism, such as the avoidance of libel, slander, obscenity, undocumented allegations, and the techniques of harassment and innuendo. All student communications media must explicitly state that the opinions there expressed are not necessarily those of the College or student body. Editors and managers of student communications media are protected from arbitrary suspension or removal because of student, faculty, administrative, or public disapproval of editorial policy or content. Orderly procedures for the selection and removal of editors and managers are established by the organization involved and subject to review by the Student Life Committee or its delegate.
- Since Gettysburg College assists student communications media by providing funds and facilities, it may incur legal liability for the content and operation of such publications. Within the limits imposed by such canons of responsible journalism as are catalogued above, the College is committed to freedom of expression in order that student communications media may preserve their integrity of purpose. When these limits are exceeded, the College reserves the right to take such action as may be necessary by virtue of its legal responsibility and its potential liability.
E. Resources and Reporting of Concerns
- The Vice President for College Life and Dean of Students is responsible for administering this policy. The Office of College Life is available to serve as a resource for students or groups planning events or written materials according to this policy.
- Any concerns or question regarding events, postings, sheet signs, chalking, or other distributed material which may be in violation of the Freedom of Expression Policy should be reported to the Office of College Life in CUB 220 or by calling 717-337-6900.
- Reported and alleged violations of this policy will be investigated by the Office of College Life. Students or student organizations in violation of this policy will be referred to the Director of Student Rights and Responsibilities for conduct adjudication, according to process outlined in the Handbook of Student Rights and Responsibilities. Employees are subject to disciplinary action outlined in the Faculty and/or Employee Handbooks.
- Violations of law or violations of this policy by non-college individuals or groups may be referred to the Gettysburg Police. Arrests and criminal charges are separate from the College’s conduct process.
* Portions of this policy reflect the language and principles of a 2015 Report of the Committee on Freedom of Expression at the University of Chicago
The Commitment to Freedom of Expression and Civil Discourse Policy was approved unanimously by the Student Life Committee on April 7, 2016 for immediate implementation.