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Free Speech Division of Student Affairs

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Freedom of Expression

Sac State supports creative, thoughtful, and respectful discourse where conflicting perspectives are vigorously debated and thoroughly discussed. Sac State is dedicated to affording all members of the Sac State community the protections for free speech, expression, assembly, religion, and press available under the U.S. and California constitutions and all applicable federal and state laws, in accordance with the University's purpose and function except insofar as limitations on those freedoms are necessary to Sac State's functioning.

Your Voice: Expressing Disagreement

Before an Event

  • Social Media - Start talking about what's going on and begin to build support and/or discussion around your ideas and/or opposition to the proposed event.
  • Contact Sac State Media - The State Hornet Newspaper is an excellent option to possibly write a story about the issue to draw attention. Contact the editor of the section of the paper that best fits the situation. Additionally, write letters to the editor to help shape your position and support.
  • Student Organizations - Review a list of student organizations on Hornet Hub and reach out to those organizations you believe would have an interest in the topic. Having many groups with one voice strengthens your position and can lead to greater influence around the important topic.
  • ASI Student Government- Consider contacting your ASI Elected Official to encourage that representative to write a resolution in support of your position or in opposition to the issue you disagree. You may also want to consider scheduling time with one of your ASI Officers to see how your issue fits within the shared governance model at Sac State.
  • Petitions - Start a petition to send to your ASI, state, local and/or federal officials to communicate the vast support that exists for your position.
  • Teach-in - Organize a teach-in using the expertise of our own faculty or other key individuals you may know to create an informal lecture or discussion around the important topic.
  • Schedule a Meeting- Determine who from the university is the best person to address and/or express your concerns and schedule a meeting with this individual(s).
  • Support - Review the type of event and think through what type of proactive steps can be taken to support Sac State students. Should signs and flyers be made in advance, should you contact the Dean of Students Office to help coordinate emotional support professionals to be present to assist students, do you need to purchase candles and candle drip protectors for the event.

At the Event

  • Counter-demonstration - Organize a demonstration to illustrate your opposition to the point of view being presented by the other group.
  • Leave - A very powerful tool to send a message of opposition is to deny a speaker and/or event your attendance. Controversial speakers are usually trained to provoke their audience and if the audience does not exist it creates a challenging situation for the speaker and/or organizers to create the dissention they desire.
  • Stand Up and Turn Around - Another option is to force the speaker to speak to your back. Most speakers need to feed off the audience and the controversy they create. By turning your back you remain present but still send a message of opposition. This can only be done if you are not obstructing the view of other attendees who want to see the speaker.
  • Tape Your Mouth - Another effective message you can send at an event is to place tape over your mouth to indicate you have been silenced. This can also mean you are sending a message that you oppose the view but are demonstrating your peaceful resistance to the message.
  • T-Shirts - Many students create t-shirts to send a message and create a community of solidarity around the issue they support or disagree with.
  • Picket-Signs - Sac State students have created their own signs to counter picket the message/event being brought to the university.
  • Flyers - You may want to create your own flyers. It is always important to make sure your message is communicated effectively.
  • Social Media - There are many social media platforms available to communicate your message for or against a particular cause/event/speaker.
  • More Speech - You can counter hate speech or other speech with more free speech, better speech, and with more accurate speech. Use your right to free expression to condemn hate speech and other ignorant speech.

Caution: What to Avoid

We want to make sure you are able to express your first amendment rights in a productive manner that complies with university, state and federal laws. Please keep in mind that we have professionals in the Office of Student Life and Development who are trained to assist you with this process.

The exercise of free speech and assembly rights shall NOT:

  1. interfere with class instruction or other scheduled academic, educational, or cultural/arts program or with the use of the University Library;
  2. disrupt university staff or officials while they are fulfilling their university responsibilities;
  3. block attendees from entering or exiting the event;
  4. obstruct pedestrian or vehicular traffic, or otherwise, endanger persons or property;
  5. permit you to touch or spit on a speaker;
  6. employ sound amplification or create noise that disrupts University activities or interferes with the exercise of free speech by others (please refer to amplification regulation);
  7. be conducted in or on-campus parking lots, parking structures, driveways, crosswalks, streets, roadways, and paths of pedestrian travel;
  8. harass, intimidate, or impede the movement of persons;
  9. allow you to occupy an office or other non-public space;
  10. create or cause unsafe congestion around stairs and escalators.

Dissent becomes unprotected civil disobedience when taking over a campus building, materially disrupting classes or events, trespassing, vandalizing, disturbing the peace, or other types of conduct subject to time, place, manner restrictions. Civil disobedience could potentially result in criminal or conduct charges.

Civil Disobedience

The First Amendment protects the right to dissent in many forms, but not civil disobedience. By definition, civil disobedience refers to the refusal to obey laws by violating them. A founding premise for society based on the rule of law and order is to adhere to the laws that are voted into existence. In the United States, we have guaranteed the right to dissent, to protest, to assemble peaceably, to petition against a law, and to pose legal challenges to laws we believe violate constitutional rights. When dissent crosses over into the area called "time, place, manner" restrictions, dissent moves to civil disobedience. Students may dissent against a range of policies and against political ideas in a number of ways. Such dissent becomes unprotected civil disobedience when taking over a campus building, materially disrupting classes or events, trespassing, vandalizing, disturbing the peace, or other types of conduct subject to time, place, manner restrictions. Sac State protects the freedom to dissent, and also seeks to raise awareness that participation in civil disobedience could potentially result in serious criminal or conduct charges.

Sac State has a Student Code of Conduct that is the same regulation for all 23 campuses in the CSU system. Possible violations that may be cited for students engaging in Civil Disobedience depending on the circumstances could be:

Regulation XVI: Standards for Student Conduct

D. Grounds for Student Discipline

1. (b) furnishing false information to a University official, faculty member, or campus office;

1. (d) misrepresenting one's self to be an authorized agent of the University one of its auxiliaries;

2. unauthorized entry into, presence in, use of, or misuse of University property;

3. willful, material, and substantial disruption or obstruction of a University-related activity or any on-campus activity;

4. participation in an activity that substantially and materially disrupts the normal operations of the University or infringes on the rights of members of the University community;

5. willful, material, and substantial obstruction of the free flow of pedestrian or other traffic on or leading to campus property or an off-campus University-related activity;

6. disorderly, lewd, indecent, or obscene behavior at a University-related activity or directed toward a member of the University community; 7. conduct that threatens or endangers the health or safety of any person within or related to the University community, including physical abuse, threats, intimidation, harassment, or sexual misconduct;

12. unauthorized destruction or damage to University property or other property in the University community;

17. failure to comply with directions of, or interference with, any University official or any public safety officer while acting in the performance of his/her duties;

18. any act chargeable as a violation of a federal, state, or local law that poses a substantial threat to the safety or well-being of members of the University community, that poses a threat to property within the University community, or that threatens to disrupt or interfere with University operations;

When in violation of the law, Police may use the following Penal Codes to charge you:

  • Resisting arrest or delaying a peace officer (Penal Code Section 148)
  • Disrupting a public meeting (Penal Code Section 403)
  • Riot and unlawful assembly (Penal Code Sections 404-408)
  • Failure to disperse (Penal Code Sections 409)
  • Disturbing the peace (Penal Code Section 415)
  • Trespassing (Penal Code Section 602)
  • Assault and battery (Penal Code Sections 240-248)
  • Refusing to obey a peace officer who is enforcing the Vehicle Code (Vehicle Code Section 2800(a))
  • Attempting to free a person who has just been arrested (Penal Code Section 405a)
  • Vandalism/graffiti (Penal Code Section 594)

This information is shared to assist with understanding where a line could be considered crossing. We want to make sure you are safe and also avoid any potential trouble for yourself. Please reach out to a professional who can assist you as you navigate your first amendment rights. There are a number of campus officials willing to assist - Dean of Students, Director of CDI, Advisors in CDI, Student Organizations and Leadership Advisors, and the Associate Vice President for Student Life are just a few of the folks on campus here to help you with this process.