As a public institution, the University values the freedom of expression and the right to petition and peacefully assembly as in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
First Amendment of United States Constitution
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
In the Dean of Students Office, we think of freedom of expression in terms of protecting your rights – and those of your fellow students – to choose for yourself what you want to hear and consider, and how to respond to speech with which you disagree.
We hope that by exploring the resources on this website Huskies will understand more fully the value free expression adds to your education, the impact it can have on other students’ education, and how to respond to others’ expression in a way that feels right for you and advances our community.
Whenever government disfavors one kind of speech, it places that speech at a disadvantage, potentially interfering with the free marketplace of ideas and with an individual’s ability to express thoughts and ideas that can help that individual determine the kind of society in which he wishes to live, help shape that society, and help define his place within it.
Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, Reed v. Town of Gilbert (2015)
The free exchanges of ideas and opportunities to engage in robust discussion is an essential part of teaching and learning. Consequently, St. Cloud State University serves as a marketplace of ideas that presents new information and diverse perspectives that help students be prepared for a life of intellectual, professional and personal fulfillment with the skills to discover and apply new solutions to challenges and opportunities through risk-taking, innovation and imagination.
We demonstrate the value of freedom of expression in accordance within Minnesota State Board Policy 3.1 Student Rights and Responsibilities:
Freedom of Expression
Individual students and student organizations shall be free to examine and to discuss all questions of interest to them and to express opinions publicly and privately. They shall be free to support causes by orderly means that do not substantially disrupt the regular and essential operations of the college or university. Students shall be free to take reasoned exception to the information or views offered in any course of study and to reserve judgment about matters of opinion, but they are responsible for learning the content of any course of study for which they are enrolled.
Freedom of Association
Students shall be free to organize and join organizations to promote their common and lawful interests, subject to college or university policies, procedures, or regulations. Registration or recognition may be withheld or withdrawn from organizations that violate college or university policies, procedures, or regulations.
St. Cloud State University maintains the right to place reasonable restrictions on time, place, and manner of expression and prohibits any acts that are disruptive to the normal operations of the university. These restrictions are only used to allow for normal university operations. An example of a reasonable restriction is sound levels. In particular, the sound level should not interfere with classes, meetings, campus events or operations and activities in progress or the privacy of residence hall students.
For more information on time, place, and manner restrictions please review the Use of Outdoor Space policy.
Although the First Amendment uses the word speech, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that it is not limited to pure speech, but that it protects a wide variety of expressions including the written word, symbolic speech, and speech plus. Consequently, almost all speech and expression are legally protected including those that individuals may find offensive, unacceptable, or harmful. Pure speech is limited to the spoken word and includes debates and public gatherings and has the most protection under the First Amendment. Symbolic speech also know as expressive conduct is an action that conveys a message without the spoken word like burning a flag. Speech plus is speech combined with action including peaceably assembling to engage in protests and boycotts. Speech plus is generally protected by the First Amendment, but the action may be regulated. The University may address protected speech that does not align with Our Husky Compact through dialogue and education.
There are a limited number of narrowly defined instances when speech and expression are not protected. The First Amendment does not protect defamation, discriminatory harassment, disruption of the academic environment, fighting words, inciting or producing an imminent lawless action, obscenity and child pornography, and true threats of violence. The University will respond to unprotected speech or action through the appropriate policy and procedure.
“If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the process of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.”
Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, Whitney v. California (1927)
There are times where participation in the marketplace of ideas will lead to encountering controversial ideas and viewpoints that may cause discomfort. Although, moments of discomfort can be a valuable part of the learning process the challenge is how to respond when those ideas and viewpoints threaten or limit the ability for students to learn.
Not all students will react to controversial, or even offensive speech, in the same way; some prefer to avoid it completely, while others prefer to confront it directly. Others may find that listening to controversial ideas helps them refine their own thoughts and ideas, even if it doesn’t change them. Students who may be upset by the speech of others are encouraged to focus their energies on responding to what is said, rather than trying to prevent others from saying it.
It is important to acknowledge that although protected, controversial and offensive speech can have deep and lasting impact on our community. Disparaging ideas is not the same as disparaging identities. Moreover, the uneven power dynamics in our society often exacerbate the negative impact some speech can have on people from historically-marginalized communities. We strongly encourage students to reflect on the language they use to allow for their peers to fully and safely engage in experiences both in and outside of the classroom.
“The most important aspect of freedom of speech is freedom to learn. All education is a continuous dialogue - questions and answers that pursue every problem on the horizon. That is the essence of academic freedom.”
Supreme Court Justice William O. Dogulas
The concept of academic freedom was developed by the American Association of University Professors in its 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure. Developed as a means to create a greater public awareness and understanding of academic freedom, the statement helps define a set of values that protect freedom of expression and inquiry within the process of teaching and learning.
Minnesota State Board Policy 3.1 provides students with the right of Freedom to Learn.
In addition to the basic constitutional rights enjoyed by all citizens, students at colleges and universities have specific rights related to academic freedom and their status as students. Freedom to teach and freedom to learn are inseparable facets of academic freedom. The freedom to learn depends on appropriate opportunities and conditions in all learning environments, on the campus, and in the larger community. Students are expected to exercise their freedom with responsibility.
Relevant University Policies