Office of Civic Engagement

What can you do with your First Amendment Rights?

Importance of the First Amendment:

The First Amendment allows us to express ourselves almost without reservation and a series of court cases have further defined its use. However, freedom of speech does not mean we can silence those with whom we disagree. The ACLU has defended individuals engaged in some truly offensive speech because the freedom of speech is most necessary when the message is one most people find repulsive. Constitutional rights apply to even the most unpopular groups if they’re going to be preserved for everyone.

The First Amendment protects your right to assemble and express your views through protest. However, police and other government officials may enforce some restrictions on the exercise of speech. 

The ACLU outlines Protestors’ Rights to guide you in building your voice through protest.

Things to consider when planning an event or protest:

Freedom of expression is a cornerstone of a democratic society and is essential to the educational process. Universities have a special obligation not only to tolerate but also to encourage and support the free expression of ideas, values, and opinions, even where they may be unpopular or controversial.

CSU policy includes:

  • Expression may take a variety of forms, such as speeches, signs, written materials, public assemblies, parades, demonstrations, and artistic representation.
  • Freedom of expression, however, is not an absolute right. It coexists with other rights and the need for public order.
  • Exercise of the right of free expression should not interfere with University functions, imperil public safety, or obstruct or damage University facilities.
  • The University will establish and enforce lawful campus regulations regarding the time, place, and manner of the exercise of free expression by individuals and groups.
  • The University may impose reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions on exercise of the right of expression, to preserve the safe and primary operations of the campus.

Such activities may not:

  • Unreasonably interfere with student’s ability to participate in the educational process or to gain access to the educational resources and opportunities the University provides;
  • Disrupt University activities, including classes in session or other scheduled academic, educational, athletics, cultural arts, and career programs or with use of Meriam Library;
  • Obstruct the flow of pedestrian or vehicular traffic;
  • Interfere with or disrupt the conduct of University business and operations;
  • Employ unauthorized sound amplification or create unreasonable noise disruptive of normal University activities;
  • Disrupt the residential tranquility of on-campus housing facilities; or
  • Violate any federal, state, local, or University safety code, such as regulations set by the State Fire Marshal.

Illegal speech activity, which is not protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution or by this policy, includes:

  • Terrorist threats
  • False advertising
  • Criminal harassment
  • Promotion of actual or imminent violence or harm

Although free speech is a cornerstone of campus life, it is always second to physical safety. University Police will be present at these events, and when necessary, they will employ measures to ensure that students, faculty, staff, and campus visitors remain physically safe. 

Report Violations and Concerns:

The CSU, Chico Office of Student Conduct, Rights, and Responsibilities lays out the Campus Policies that can help in knowing what steps need to be taken to report any incidents where you believe your rights have been violated or that you have witnessed an act of hate, bias, discrimination or harassment. You can also call Student, Life and Leadership for further support.