Policy Title: Statement on Student Freedom of Expression & Demonstration Policy
Reviewed Date:  8/2015
Pertains to: All students, faculty and staff
Policy Index

Statement on Student Freedom of Expression & Demonstration Policy

St. Thomas Mission Statement:
Inspired by Catholic intellectual tradition, the University of St. Thomas educates students to be morally responsible leaders who think critically, act wisely and work skillfully to advance the common good.

In accordance with its mission, members of the university community are expected to advance the common good. This goal is most often accomplished through the normal activities of university students, staff, faculty, and administration. However, extraordinary means of expression and demonstration may be warranted when social problems become urgent and when ordinary actions are regarded as insufficient. This policy is intended to create a space for expression and dissent within boundaries that protect the rights and safety of all community members.

St. Thomas Convictions of Dignity and Diversity:
We respect the dignity of each person and value the unique contributions that each brings to the greater mosaic of the university community.
We strive to create a vibrant diverse community in which, together, we work for a more just and inclusive society.

The university is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge by means that respect the dignity and diversity of all. Dissent - defined as disagreement or withholding assent - is vital to the authentic pursuit of higher education. Therefore, members of the university community have the freedom to express diverse points of view without intimidation through expressions and demonstrations that do not infringe upon the rights of others.

This policy is intended for use by those students who have an immediate need to organize and express their views (for example, in response to a current specific event). It is not intended to replace the general program planning policies outlined by the Department of Campus Life.

Demonstrations are expected to employ nonviolent methods such as marches, rallies, and protests that reflect the principles of Catholic social teaching1 and the best practices of nonviolent movements2. Demonstrations violate this policy if they do one or more of the following:

  • Deny or infringe upon the rights of university community members or guests
  • Obstruct or restrict the free movement of persons on any part of the campus
  • React to the peaceful dissent of others by attempting to deny their rights
  • Deny access to offices or other facilities to university community members or guests
  • Endanger the safety of any person on the campus
  • Result in the violation of laws or the destruction of property

Undergraduate students, including student groups and organizations, planning to hold a demonstration should complete a “Notice of Intent Form”. These forms are available in the Dean of Students Office and allow students to identify such matters as the time, place and manner of the demonstration along with a general plan for the event. Upon receipt of the completed Notice of Intent Form, the Dean of Students Office will work with Campus Scheduling Services to reserve a space. This process should be completed at least 72 hours in advance of the planned demonstration.

Upon submission, the Dean of Students – or a designated representative - will consult with organizers to establish reasonable parameters of time, place, and manner in respect to the principles and qualifications highlighted above. The Dean may also consult with appropriate university personnel to ensure communication about the event. The Notice of Intent is in keeping with best practices of nonviolence that promote transparency and open communication. It does not imply an approval process, but rather a consultative process that promotes the rights and responsibilities of students and the university. If the event violates the qualifications listed above the university reserves the authority to protect the rights and safety of the community.

Graduate students who wish to demonstrate should contact the Dean of the college or program in which they are enrolled. The Dean of the appropriate college or program will be able to aid those graduate students and direct them to the appropriate university staff for help with Campus Scheduling Services.

The submission of the Notice of Intent does not imply sponsorship of the event by the University. Nor does such an event imply that the views held by the group proposing the demonstration are supported or endorsed by the university. This policy is intended to facilitate appropriate dissent and expression by members of the university community. It is not intended to afford a venue for such dissent and expression for persons not affiliated with the university. Nor does this policy allow for demonstrations with a commercial or business purpose.

1See “Themes of Catholic Social Teaching”
2See Justice and Peace Studies course content on active nonviolence