Expressive Activity

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According to Virginia Code §23.1-401.1, "Except as otherwise permitted by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, no public institution of higher education shall abridge the constitutional freedom of any individual, including enrolled students, faculty and other employees, and invited guests, to speak on campus." 

PVCC stands in full support of the First Amendment and believes in expressive activity for members of our community. This page is designed to explain how PVCC incorporates the rights of citizens within the academic environment to ensure full compliance with the law while allowing for student learning and engagement. 

The aforementioned state code, also called the "speech law", addresses protected speech in the higher education environment. 

pvcc expressive activity policy

The purpose of this policy is to set out the policy and procedures that will govern all expressive activities on campus. This policy applies to all buildings, grounds, and other spaces owned or controlled by Piedmont Virginia Community College (PVCC). The term “expressive activity” includes:

  • Meetings and other group activities of students, student organizations, faculty, staff, and outside groups;
  • Speeches, performances, demonstrations, rallies, vigils, and other events by students, student organizations, faculty, staff, and outside groups;
  • Distributions of literature, such as distributing leaflets and pamphlets; and
  • Any other expression protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

College property is primarily dedicated to academic, student life, and administrative functions. However, it also represents the vitally-important function of providing a “marketplace of ideas,” and especially for students, many areas of campus represent a public forum for speech and other expressive activities. PVCC will place restrictions on expressive activities occurring indoors that are likely to create a significant disruption to normal college operations, but the outdoor areas of campus remain venues for free expression, including speeches, demonstrations, and the distribution of literature. 

Indoors or outdoors, PVCC shall not interfere with the rights of individuals and groups to the free expression of their views or regulate their speech based on its content or viewpoint. Even though PVCC has established reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions on expressive activity in order to prevent significant disruption of normal college operations, such restrictions are content-neutral, narrowly tailored to serve a significant college operational interest, and allow ample alternative channels for communication of the information.

No event or expressive activity shall be permitted to violate or hinder the rights of others within the campus community or substantially disrupt normal college operations. Hindering the rights of others, however, shall not be defined as promoting ideas that others find disagreeable, offensive, or even repulsive. Promoting unpopular ideas is fully protected. Examples of hindering the rights of others include, but are not limited to, preventing others from expressing their views; threatening violence against another person (something more than hypothetical) or engaging in violent acts; acting aggressively to try to force others to take leaflets or brochures after the person has declined; blocking others’ paths anywhere on campus; and other similar acts to deprive others of their rights.

RESPONSIBILITIES 

The Vice President for Finance and Administrative Services shall be responsible for implementing the policy and is the appropriate official to receive inquiries about the policy.

PROCEDURES FOR RESERVING CAMPUS FACILITIES

1)  If students, student organizations, or college employees desire to reserve campus facilities, they shall submit their requests to the office of the Vice President for Finance and Administrative Services. Requests must be made with at least 48 hours’ notice. Under extraordinary and rare circumstances, more notice may be required to allow for sufficient logistical support and to ensure the safety and security of the campus. No facility request will be denied due to the nature of the topic to be discussed. Requests may only be denied for the reasons listed under #5 below. 

2)  If individuals or organizations who are not members of the college community (i.e., not students, student organizations, or college employees) desire to reserve campus facilities, they must be sponsored and/or approved by a recognized student organization or the College to conduct expressive activities or events on campus. These individuals or organizations shall submit their requests for sponsorship or approval consistent with PVCC Policy II-100.0. No facility request will be denied due to the nature of the topic to be discussed. Requests may only be denied for the reasons listed under #5 below. 

3)  The college will assess appropriate fees for equipment and facility use to users who are not members of the campus community, as per PVCC Policy II-100.0. Reasonable security fees will be assessed to defray the actual costs of providing security when the size of the audience may pose a risk to safety. Security fees shall not be assessed based on the anticipated reaction to the expressive activity.

4)  Facilities available for use are available only during normal operating hours or as otherwise posted. Any and all expressive activities must not create noise levels that interfere with students’ ability to study and learn in the classroom, library, and other rooms or that interfere with the ability of the college to conduct normal operations on behalf of students.

5)  Students, student organizations, and college employees may request to reserve cam­pus facilities on a first-come, first served basis. These requests may be denied for the following reasons only:

a. The requested venue is an indoor facility that the college has designated as not available for expressive activity as listed below;

b. The requested venue is an indoor facility and the request conflicts with restrictions enacted pursuant to #4 above;

c.  The venue is already reserved for another event;

d.   The activity will attract a crowd larger than the venue can safely contain;

e.   The activity will substantially disrupt another event being held at a neighboring venue[1];

f.    The activity will substantially disrupt college operations (including classes);

g.   The activity is a clear and present threat to public safety, according to the col­lege’s police or security department;

h.   The activity will occur during college examination periods; or

i.    The activity is unlawful.

6)  During an event, the student, student organization, or college employee requesting the reservation is responsible for preserving and maintaining the facility it reserved. If it causes any damage to those facilities, the person(s) or organization (and its officers, if applicable) shall assume full responsibility. 

7)  When assessing a request to reserve campus facilities, the college will not under any circumstances consider the content or viewpoint of the expression or the possible reac­tion to that expression. The college will not impose restrictions on external groups, students, student organizations, or college employees due to the content or view­point of their expression or the possible reaction to that expression. In the event that other persons react negatively to a student’s, student organization’s, college em­ployee’s, or external group ’s expression, college officials (including college police or security) shall take all necessary steps to ensure public safety while allowing the expressive activity to continue.

SPONTANEOUS EXPRESSIVE ACTIVITY 

1) For outdoor campus facilities and areas, students, student organizations, and their sponsored guests may freely engage in spontaneous expressive activities as long as they do not (a) block access to campus buildings, (b) obstruct vehicular or pedestrian traffic, (c) substantially disrupt previously scheduled campus events, (d) substantially disrupt college operations, (e) constitute unlawful activity; or (f) create a clear and present threat to public safety, according to the college’s police or security department.

2)  The Bolick Student Center, North Mall Meeting Room, Dickinson Theater, and Fried Community Room are indoor areas that are available for spontaneous expressive activity, as long as noise levels do not become excessive to the degree that it interferes with classrooms and labs, the library, and offices in their ability to operate efficiently. Because of the configuration of the Bolick Student Center, it will not be available for any expressive activity, spontaneous or otherwise, that requires it to be blocked off from other areas during the activity because of the significant disruption in college operations this would create.         

AREAS NOT AVAILABLE FOR EXPRESSIVE ACTIVITY 

The following indoor areas/facilities are not available for expressive activity:

  • Library
  • Administrative/business offices
  • Classrooms and labs (during instructional hours)
  • Bookstore
  • Café
  • Hallways
  • Entrances to buildings within 25 feet of doors

BANNERS AND DISTRIBUTION OF COMMERCIAL MATERIALS 

1)  Banners used in expressing speech should be stand-alone, should comply with the provisions of this policy, and cannot be used to block, obstruct, or otherwise deny access to any pedestrian, block or obstruct vehicular traffic, deface any college or private property, create safety hazards, or require employees to assist with their deployment.

2)  Distribution of commercial as well as non-commercial advocacy advertising or the placement of commercial and non-commercial material must follow PVCC Policy II-40.0, and is prohibited in the following areas:

  • Administrative offices
  • Classrooms, computer rooms, laboratories, and all other places where instruction takes place
  • Libraries
  • Bulletin boards that are not listed as open bulletin boards under Policy II-40.0

[1] The expression of competing viewpoints or multiple speakers in proximity to each other does not, without more, constitute a substantial disruption


helpful links

PVCC Policy on Expressive Activity

PVCC Annual Report to the Governor

Virginia Code § 23.1-401.1. Constitutionally protected speech; policies, materials, and reports; report.

What Does Free Speech Mean?

If you have additional questions, please contact Kim McManus, Vice President for Finance & Administrative Services, at kmcmanus@pvcc.edu or 434.961.5207

Frequently Asked Questions: 

What is Expressive Activity?

Expressive activities are speech-related activities, including

  • meetings;

  • other group events or activities by student organizations or their invited guests;

  • speeches;

  • performances;

  • demonstrations;

  • rallies;

  • vigils;

  • distributions of literature; and

  • any other activity protected by the First Amendment.

What kind of speech is protected by the First Amendment?

The U.S. Constitution protects most speech, with very limited exceptions. In outdoor spaces, the college may place reasonable limits only on the time, place, and manner of your expressive activity, and those limits must not depend on the content or viewpoint of the expressive activity.  In addition, for outdoor areas, students, student organizations, and their guests are not required to give notice before engaging in expressive activity.  In other words, students, student organizations, employees, and guests may engage in spontaneous expressive activities as long as they do not engage in any of the conduct listed in the next FAQ below.  (There may be exceptions to this general rule; for example, your college may have an outdoor facility that requires a reservation to use.)

Indoors, colleges may place restrictions on expressive activities, as long as any rules apply to everyone equally and are not based on the content or viewpoint of the speech.  The college may determine that certain indoor facilities are not available for expressive activity.  Common examples of such areas include: (1) administrative offices, (2) libraries, (3) hallways, and (4) classrooms during instructional hours. 

What kind of actions related to protected speech can be regulated?

Most speech is protected by the Constitution, but sometimes, the actions that a speaker takes during an expressive activity are disruptive enough to allow a college to intervene, regardless of what is actually being expressed. For outdoor facilities and areas, students, student organizations, and their guests may freely engage in expressive activity as long as they do not also engage in any of the following: 

  • block access to campus buildings;

  • obstruct traffic (vehicles or pedestrians);

  • substantially disrupt previously scheduled campus events;

  • substantially disrupt college operations or violate or hinder the rights of others;

  • break the law; or

  • create a threat to public safety, according to the college’s police or security department.

Is the college required to have indoor areas available for spontaneous expressive activity?

No.  The college is not required to have an indoor area designated for spontaneous speech activities.  However, if it chooses to create one or more, college officials must post that the area is available for students, student organizations, employees and guests to engage in expressive activities. The area must be available for all students, student organizations, employees, and guests equally, and not depend on the content or viewpoint of the expression or the possible reaction to it. 

What do I do if someone or a group tries to disrupt my, my organization's, or invited guest's speech?

To report a disruption of protected speech, complete an Incident Report. In case of an emergency, please call 911 or PVCC Police at 434.981.6362. 

How can someone reserve campus facilities for speech activities?

Contact the office of the Vice President for Finance and Administrative Services to reserve campus facilities. Spaces are reserved on a first-come-first-serve basis. The college can state in advance that certain spaces cannot be reserved for speech activities. Common examples include libraries, offices, hallways, and classrooms during instructional hours. Any other restrictions on expressive activities that occur in indoor facilities may apply equally to everyone and not depend on the content or viewpoint of the expression, or the possible reaction to the expression.