Freedom of Expression
The University of Houston-Downtown is committed to fostering a learning environment where free inquiry and expression are encouraged.
The University expects that persons engaging in expressive activities will demonstrate civility, concern for the safety of persons and property, respect for University activities, respect for those who may disagree with their message, and compliance with University policies and applicable local, state and federal laws. The purpose of the University of Houston-Downtown Freedom of Expression Policy (PS 04.A.08) is to provide for organized expressive activities to be conducted on the grounds of the University in a manner consistent with these principles.
The Freedom of Expression Policy is applicable to University of Houston-Downtown students, faculty, staff, and others who wish to engage in expressive activities, including extracurricular public speaking, literature distribution, poster displays, sign displays, any other type of graphic exhibitions, expressive performances, petitioning or similar noncommercial activities, at locations on University property. Literature distribution must comply with the rules stated in the Freedom of Expression Policy.
This policy is applicable to any Expressive Activity at locations on University Grounds. This policy does not apply to any Official University Event or Activity, except as noted.
Non-permitted commercial activities (as defined in the Freedom of Expression Policy) are not allowed.
Expressive activities permitted under this policy do not imply official endorsement by the University. Groups or individuals engaged in expressive activities are responsible for the content of the expression.
Use Of Space
- UH-Downtown Freedom of Expression Policy (PS 04.A.08)
- UH System Freedom of Expression Policy (SAM 01.D.15)
- Freedom of Expression Activity Description Form
- UH System Anti-Discrimination Policy (SAM 01.D.07)
UH System Report on Protected Expression on Campus (Senate Bill 18 Legislative Report)
- True threats: Those are statements in which the speaker means to communicate a serious expression of intent to commit an act of unlawful violence to a particular individual or group of individuals.
- Fighting words: Words that are likely to incite violence or imminent lawless action.
- Impeding access to any campus buildings or facility or other public spaces on campus, obstructing the free flow of vehicular or pedestrian traffic or materially and substantially disrupting University business (group can be dispersed or asked to move depending on situation).
- Violating University policies (for example, policies against open flames, littering, posting, discrimination and harassment, sexual misconduct, etc.).
- Other actions that would violate state or federal law (for example, actual violence, damaging property, selling drugs).
- Obscenity, which is defined by the U.S. Supreme Court as:
- [W]hether the average person, applying contemporary community standards would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest;
- whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law; and
- whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.
- Defamatory statements: A statement may be defamatory (and unprotected) if it is an intentional and false statement about an individual communicated to a third party, resulting in damage to the individual's reputation.
If a person or group wants to reserve a particular place on campus for expressive activities, there are seven areas of campus which are available for prior reservation for UHD faculty, staff, students, and members of registered student organizations. These areas may also be used for expressive activity without a reservation; however, an individual or group with a reservation will have priority over other individuals or groups for use of the area and may have exclusive use of the reserved area.
- South Deck: The area located on the 3rd floor (Main Street level) south of the Academic Building and One Main Building.
- Academic Deck: The area located on the 3rd floor (Main Street level) south of the South Deck.
- North Deck: The area located on the 3rd floor (Main Street level) north of the Academic Building and One Main Building.
- Portico: The area located on the 3rd floor (Main Street level) in front of the One Main Building and Metro rail.
- Shea Street Building Deck: The area located in front of the Shea Street Building.
- Commerce Street Building Patio: The area located behind the Commerce Building.
- Food Truck Plaza: The area located adjacent to the north entrance of the College of Sciences and Technology Building.
- Persons distributing information at reserved information table locations must remain within their reserved table space and displays at reserved information table locations.
- Literature or other printed materials must be distributed in person.
- Literature or other printed materials must not be forced upon others.
- The free flow of pedestrian, vehicular, or other traffic must not be obstructed at any point.
- Groups or individuals are responsible for ensuring that literature/printed materials do not litter the area.
- Literature/printed materials must not promote Non-Permitted Commercial Activities.
- This section does not apply to literature/printed material distribution related to a vote for or against a candidate for the Student Government Association (SGA) office or for or against a proposition on a ballot at an SGA election. Such distribution by registered University students may take place in areas immediately adjacent to SGA polling locations and must comply with the University's rules.
- All activities should be peaceful, non-violent, and non-threatening.
- Refrain from any activity that infringes on the rights of others, such as blocking and preventing the movement or access of others, or that materially and substantially disrupts University business.
- Avoid conduct which unduly interferes with the expressive activities of others on campus, such as disrupting a speaker's ability to be heard at a scheduled event.
- Follow the lawful instructions of University administrators or police, such as staying behind barricades, dispersing from an area declared an unlawful assembly, or not resisting arrest. It is against the law to disobey a lawful order by a police officer.
- Leave the area where others are engaging in illegal activities or acts of violence. Remaining in the area could be interpreted as your choosing to participate in the illegal activities or acts of violence, even if that is not your intent.
- Refrain from speech that incites others to commit acts of violence such as pushing, kicking, or spitting on others, destruction of property, or other unlawful actions.
- Carrying an open flame is prohibited unless approval is granted in advance by the Director of Environmental Management and Fire Safety, or designee.
The use of amplified sound is permitted only in the reservable outdoor common areas of campus listed in Answer 8 above, and may only occur for the duration of the event. Amplified sound may not exceed 75 decibels levels.
Amplified sound will be measured at the edges of the surrounding buildings. For the purposes of this policy, dB shall mean the intensity of sound expressed in decibels read from the A-level weighting scale and the slow meter response as specified by the American National Standards Institute.
Additionally, any person that participates in unlawful expressive activity, or that unduly interferes with the Expressive activities of others on campus, including at an Official University Event or Activity, may be subject to disciplinary action, as outlined in the student codes of conduct, in policies relating to faculty or staff discipline, or in policies or laws relating to visitors on campus.
- is not conducted in a University common area,
- attracts an audience of 50 or more people,
- exceeds the reasonable capacity of the space for the number of people attending,
- substantially disrupts University business or classes,
- blocks building access, or
- creates traffic hazards.
In such instances, the expressive activity may be required to relocate to another area on campus that can better accommodate the large group or type of activity. Additionally, individuals or groups who fail to comply with University policies and applicable laws may face immediate removal from the campus and/or other appropriate actions by University officials and University police.