Laws and Policies

USU’s Commitment to the First Amendment

Utah State University (USU) is committed to freedom of expression and assembly as guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article 1, Section 15 of the Utah Constitution. USU welcomes a robust exchange of ideas and seeks to foster an environment where all members of our campus community can gather, associate, and express themselves freely.

As a state entity, USU’s campus includes public forums where members of the general public are welcome to come and exercise their freedoms of expression and assembly. Examples of such public forums include outdoor areas of our campuses, including common areas such as the Quad.

USU Policy on Free Speech and Expression>>

Unprotected vs. Protected Speech and Expression

It is important to remember that not all expression or assembly is protected by the First Amendment. The following categories of expression or assembly are NOT PROTECTED by law and are not permitted on USU’s campuses nor in its programs and activities.

  1. Obscenity. In the context of free expression, the term “obscenity” does not refer to the curse words in and of themselves. Instead, it refers to sexually explicit content, that is patently offensive and lacks serious merit.
  2. Defamation. An intentionally false statement that harms an individual’s reputation.
  3. Incitement. Expression that is meant to incite or produce imminent lawless action and is likely to incite such action.
  4. True Threat. A statement that communicates a serious intent to commit an act of violence to a particular person or group. NOTE: for a threat to be a “true threat,” the speaker must have some subjective understanding that their statement is threatening, but recklessly make it anyway.
  5. Disruptive Behavior. Expression or assembly that presents a substantial disruption to a university function.

Free Expression Activities

Time, Place, and Manner Restrictions

Campus community members and visitors have the right to assemble and engage in protected speech without censorship on the USU campus. Notwithstanding, the First Amendment allows USU to enact reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions on expressive activity. These restrictions must be (1) neutral in viewpoint and content, (2) no more extensive than necessary, and (3) serve a significant university interest. Examples of such university interests include but are not limited to, crime prevention, public safety, avoiding disruption of USU functions, and maintenance of an educational atmosphere. Any such restrictions must also leave open other channels for the expressive activity.

Outdoor Areas

Generally, outdoor areas of USU’s campuses may be accessed for lawful expressive activity as “traditional public forums.” Access shall conform to all applicable time, place, and manner restrictions, which may be maintained on a case-by-case basis.

Indoor Areas

Indoor areas on campus are “limited public forums” where USU has the ability to exert a higher level of control. For example, limited public forum access is subject to building-specific rules established for the facility, including scheduling rules, and office, classroom, or study area designations. Prior to engaging in expressive activities and assembly in indoor areas of campus, individuals must contact and coordinate with the relevant building, unit, and/or scheduling administrator consistent with applicable requirements. Rental fees may be charged for the use of USU facilities and indoor areas. Academic and administrative uses of indoor areas will be reasonably prioritized over public access or use.


Individuals or groups planning to demonstrate, picket, or distribute literature on USU campuses are encouraged to file a written request with the executive director of USU Public Safety. This written request should be filed at least 24 hours in advance of the demonstration and should indicate the preferred time, place, and manner of such activity so that USU can prepare auxiliary resources, as needed.

Public Statements

University Statements

USU, as an institution, has the right to engage in free speech. USU will exercise its right to speak in a manner consistent with its core principles, values, and mission. Any statements issued by or on behalf of USU must be approved by the president or their designee. Nobody else is authorized to speak or issue statements on behalf of USU.

Sub-Unit or Department Statements

Departments and other sub-units of USU should not issue statements that do not directly relate to the department or sub-unit’s work at USU without the approval of the president or their designee.

Personal Statements

All members of the USU community, including USU employees, have the right to express themselves in their personal capacity. However, administrators, staff, and faculty should not purport to speak on behalf of USU, as an institution, or any of its departments or sub-units. Employees should not use USU letterhead or USU email addresses when communicating in their personal capacity. In addition, state law prohibits state employees, including USU employees, from engaging in certain political activities, such as campaigning or advocating for a ballot initiative, during work or with state-owned property.


Signs, notices, posters, or banners may only be posted on USU spaces specifically designated for public postings. Posting in or adjacent to student housing must comply with student housing regulations. No sign, poster, paint, or other written messages may be placed, affixed, or applied to any USU surface (except for spaces designated for public posting), including to walls, windows, floors, doors, light posts, or any other surface.

Small lawn signs may be used to promote USU programs or activities, and/or to advertise an upcoming event held on USU’s campus. However, these signs must comply with USU Facilities’ published sign procedures.

USU may remove and discard any signs, notices, posters, or banners that do not comply with USU policy. USU Facilities and those individuals charged with cleaning spaces will pull down non-compliant signage each day in the ordinary course of their scheduled duties.

Invited Speakers

When visitors are invited to speak or present on campus, USU respects the speaker’s right to engage in protected speech and encourages a respectful presentation environment free from undue disruption or interference. Substantial disruption is not permitted and may result in an individual being removed from the event and/or trespassed from campus. The views and ideas presented by visiting speakers do not necessarily represent USU’s institutional position or views.

Infringement of Rights to Free Speech and Assembly 

Violations of free expression and/or assembly rights, as protected by USU policy and by state and federal law, can be reported to the University’s Ethics & Compliance Hotline.