First Amendment Training
First Amendment Assessment
Free Speech Policy
Campus Activism: Promoting Campus Dialogue and Student Development
Student Protest

FIRST AMENDMENT TRAINING

Some of the most difficult and complex student and organizational behavior issues that arise are those that involve the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It is critical to understand the issues related to speech, religious expression, the student press or rights of assembly. It is also important to remember that "speech" may take many forms and that many methods of expression are constitutionally protected. Rapid technological advances have spawned an increasingly broad milieu of venues for expression; not only on campus but around the world. Consequently, administrators must consider student expression that is beyond simply the spoken word on the campus proper.

While the First Amendment may seem fairly straightforward, the reality is that at public colleges and universities, the First Amendment is often inadvertently or purposefully violated and First Amendment issues remain complex, dynamic and vexing. Key to what critics allege are collegiate "speech codes" are our policies on diversity and harassment. "Free speech zones" and discrimination by religiously-affiliated student organizations are also hot buttons. Our policies and practices must be reviewed and revised so as to withstand constitutional scrutiny.

Public colleges and universities strive to create a learning environment that is truly reflective of the "Marketplace of Ideas" while supporting and enhancing the educational experience of traditionally marginalized, and historically vulnerable, individuals and groups. Providing a balance between these two aspirations creates challenges to the campus that are charged with emotion, and constrained by law, leaving campus administrators with the critical question of "who can say what, where, and when". Too often, conflict is played out very quickly and publicly, with intense media scrutiny, and a legal challenge. This leaves little time for concerted analysis.

An increasing number of legal challenges to our institutions on the basis of in First Amendment rights include the following issues:

  • Campus speech codes
  • Harassment policies
  • Campus access policies
  • Literature and posting policies
  • Student organization recognition
  • Student press
  • Campus mascots
  • E-mail banners/signature lines
  • Free speech zones
  • Diversity policies and training

The First Amendment isn't an all-or-nothing concept, however, and there are ways that institutions can put structures in place to maintain the campus for its primary purposes of teaching and learning without abandoning the principles of the First Amendment.

More colleges and universities have unconstitutional "speech codes" now than when they were first introduced in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Having been found to be consistently unconstitutional by a number of courts, why have they resurfaced as a perceived "control mechanism" on college campuses?

How have anti-harassment policies required by federal law become de-facto speech codes in practice? Can guidance gleaned from previous court cases be used to help develop common sense space and facility use policies? What other policies and procedures related to the First Amendment should be critically reviewed?

This presentation provides an in-depth review of the broad scope of First Amendment challenges facing colleges and universities today including: space and facility use of campus and outside groups; organizational recognition; academic freedom of students and faculty; posting and literature distribution; use of signs and displays; sound amplification; registration requirements; identification of specific speech zones and other common questions. All areas of discussion are accompanied by presentation of relevant case law.

This highly interactive workshop will both educate and challenge.

For more information, contact Kate Halligan, Vice President of Client Relations at kate.halligan@tngconsulting.com or (610) 579-3725.

FIRST AMENDMENT ASSESSMENT

The consultant will provide a comprehensive assessment of all areas of First Amendment risk, or an audit of specific areas of concern.  Additionally, the consultant will assist in the development of compliant policies or provide advice or training for targeted groups, or the institution, on First Amendment Issues.  Areas that pose the most significant First Amendment compliance risks include:

  • Policies
    • Sexual harassment policies
    • Campus access policies
      • Who has access to campus space
      • Limitations on campus space usage
    • Policies prohibiting certain types of speech (controversial, hate speech)
    • Limitations on visual expressions (flags, posters, calendars, etc.)
    • Policies regarding campus protests or demonstrations
    • Policies regarding chalking
    • Policies related to religious organizations (meeting space, recognition, membership limitations)
    • Campus speakers policies
  • Responding to cyberspace postings
  • Student organization recognition and funding
  • Academic freedom guidance
  • Campus newspapers and publications
  • Responses and limitations on student groups' expression
  • Responding to classroom disruption
  • Addressing political speech and campaigning

This highly interactive workshop provides an in-depth review of the broad scope of First Amendment challenges facing colleges and universities today, including: space and facility use of campus and outside groups; organizational recognition; academic freedom of students and faculty; posting and literature distribution; use of signs and displays; sound amplification; registration requirements; identification of specific speech zones and other common questions. All areas of discussion are accompanied by presentation of relevant case law.

For more information, contact Kate Halligan, Executive Vice President for Client Relations at kate.halligan@tngconsulting.com or (610) 579-3725.

FREE SPEECH POLICY

This policy review service is for colleges and universities that value free speech and want to ensure that their codes of conduct do not inadvertently prohibit speech protected by the first amendment. Today, colleges are being attacked and sued by interest groups such as the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and the National Association of Scholars. It is possible to create reasonable expectations for campus civility without trampling on the rights of free speech. Let us help you strike a constitutional and workable balance. This policy review service examines only those areas of your code that address speech and expressive conduct (such as discrimination codes, creeds, mission statements, freedom of speech statements, harassment provisions, and the like) to help you guarantee the constitutional rights of your students. You may be surprised at what we might find. A written report will detail problem areas and offer suggestions for alternative language and phraseology.

For more information, contact Kate Halligan, Executive Vice President for Client Relations at kate.halligan@tngconsulting.com or (610) 579-3725.

CAMPUS ACTIVISM: PROMOTING CAMPUS DIALOGUE AND STUDENT DEVELOPMENT 

This presentation examines the history of campus activism in American higher education and the constitutional protections which ensure students' rights to engage in protest. The presentation encourages student affairs professionals to view campus activism as an opportunity for encouraging student learning rather than a disruption to be managed or limited.

For more information, contact Kate Halligan, Executive Vice President for Client Relations at kate.halligan@tngconsulting.com or (610) 579-3725.

PROTESTS AND STUDENT ACTIVISM

The last of the Millennials to make their way through college are social justice activists. They want to leave their mark, and aren't bashful about making demands, occupying buildings and harnessing social media to effect social change. Bringing down a dean or a president is symbolic, and they are as interested in symbolic change as in actual change. The issues important to them are inclusion, diversity, race, sexual violence, sexual harassment, climate, inequality, historical reckoning, and more. Administrators can't be tone deaf today, or you'll soon have their treadmarks on your back. This session will examine topics including student lists of demands, the faculty/staff role in encouraging student protests, and protest management itself. Special attention will be paid to managing the media cycle and ways to invite conversation about organizational change that can either provoke a crisis or defuse the potential for traumatic confrontation. 

For more information on these services, contact Kate Halligan, Vice President for Client Relations at kate.halligan@tngconsulting.com or (610) 579-3725.