Limits of Free Speech and Expression

Limits of Free Speech

Certain freedoms of expression and assembly are guaranteed by the constitutions of the United States and the state of Utah. 

However, not all types of speech are protected. In general, the following forms of conduct and/or expression are not protected and can be sanctioned by USU:

  • Expressive activity that substantially disrupts, obstructs, or interferes with classes, teaching, the use of offices, ceremonies, sporting events, or other university activities and events
  • Expressive activity that infringes on the speech of another, for example, by creating noise to drown out a speaker, sometimes called the “hecklerʼs veto.”
  • Expressive activity that damages property
  • Incitement to violence and/or true threats
  • Violations of state or federal law, including without limitation, criminal trespass, and willful interference with lawful University activities, see Utah Code section 76-8-701, et seq.
  • Expressive activity that creates a hostile environment within the meaning of Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights. Act of 1964, or other applicable law
  • Obscenity
  • Defamation
  • Expressive activity that discloses private or confidential information or trade secrets without appropriate authorization

Learn More

Limits to Free Speech Lesson
The following video is created and provided by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a nonpartisan organization dedicated to defending and sustaining the individual rights of students and faculty members at America’s colleges and universities. FIRE provides lessons and resources to inform campus communities about free speech. This video contains language that may be offensive to some individuals.


Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District:
Foundational case of the ability of institutions of higher learning to protect their operations.

Frick v. Lynch:
Foundational case on the “heckler’s veto”

Virginia v. Black:
True threats