Protocol for Scheduled Public Talks

Ver. 10-21-19

 

University of New Hampshire

Protocol for Scheduled Public Talks

The University of New Hampshire has a strong commitment to promote Free Speech to further its educational mission. In promoting robust debate, the University also has an obligation to protect public safety, to prevent disruption of its educational and administrative operations, to prevent substantial disruption of public and private events and to promote the ability of the community to hear messages conveyed at public events.

In public settings, the right of one person or group to express a view is countered by the right of other persons or groups to engage in dialog with the speaker, even when the public event does not formally provide opportunities for traditional dialog. The Constitution even protects “heckling,” which can best be described as brief interjections to express an opposing view, at public events. The Constitution, however, also protects the right of the speaker and those who sponsor the event to hold their event, and the right of persons attending the event to hear a speaker’s lawful statements. Thus, heckling can turn into disorderly conduct or even criminal trespass, both of which can have punitive consequences.

The Student Rights, Rules and Responsibilities handbook states both the University’s unequivocal support for the principle of Freedom of Speech and establishes important policies to regulate the time, place and manner events to protect the safety of speakers, attendees and the campus community. The Student Code of Conduct and New Hampshire Criminal Code establish rules of behavior that address disruptive conduct at public events and help to set the boundaries between robust speech and dialog that are encouraged and disruption, assault and property damage that are prohibited.

The following procedure is intended to establish clear, context sensitive, and flexible guidelines for determining when substantial disruption has occurred.,

  1. Invocation of this protocol. This protocol will apply at all public events where the University has notice that there is a substantial likelihood of disruption and on request of the Chief of Police, Dean of students or the leasing authority.”
     
  2. Acceptable Response and Counter-speech. It can be challenging to quickly and clearly determine what speech, symbolic speech, or behavior is “substantially disruptive.”  The principles outlined below will help to identify behavior that generally will not be deemed to create substantial disruption of an event. These principles are not intended, and should not be deemed, to exclude other speech or conduct that does not create substantial disruption.
     
    1. Response and counter-speech
      1. For purposes of this protocol, response means invited, customary speech, symbolic speech, and conduct that are consistent with the speaker’s and event organizer’s viewpoint and plans for the event. Examples of response include behavior such as unison prayer at a worship service, applause at a musical event and dialog during a question and answer session.
      2. For purposes of this protocol counter-speech means uninvited speech and symbolic speech that is intended to be inconsistent with and in opposition to the viewpoint of the speaker and/or the event organizer or their plans for the event and heckling.
         
    2. Formal ceremonies, public performances, and religious services
      1. Response: as directed or permitted by the leader(s) of the ceremony or service
      2. Counter-speech: nondisruptive signs and symbolic speech, counter-speech in the location(s) within sight line of the location where the ceremony or service is held, as identified by the senior law enforcement official at the event.
         
    3. Speeches, colloquia, and conferences
      1. Response: as directed or permitted by the sponsors of the event, such as during question and answer sessions.
      2. Counter-speech:  interjections, nondisruptive signs and symbolic speech, counter-speech in the location(s) within sight line of the ceremony or service identified by the senior law enforcement official at the event.
         
    4. Rallies, sports events
      1. Response: nondisruptive interjections appropriate to the occasion.
      2. Counter-speech: nondisruptive signs and symbolic speech, counter-speech in the location(s) within sight line of the ceremony or service identified by the senior law enforcement official at the event.
         
  3. Academic Marshals
     
    1. The Dean of Students and/or one or more persons designated by the Dean may serve as “academic marshals” at any event at the invitation of the Chief of UNH Police Department, the event sponsor, or the incident commander of the event.
       
    2. The Dean will be responsible for training and supervising persons designated as academic marshals.
       
  4. Factors: The boundary between invited response and substantial disruption necessarily depends on context. In establishing that boundary in a situation, the academic marshal(s) will consider the following factors:
     
    1. Is the response or counter-speech within any safe harbor?
       
    2. The length, volume and timing of the response or counter-speech.
       
    3. Previous warnings or educational interventions by the academic marshal(s), law enforcement officers,
       
    4. Relevance of an interjection to a speaker’s statement.
       
    5. Repetition and prior conduct at the same or other events.
       
    6. The impact of the response or counter-speech on the speaker, sponsor and/or attendees.
       
    7. The impact of the response or counter-speech on community safety
       
  5. Process:
    1. Shortly before the start of an event, an academic marshal or the event sponsor will notify attendees of their rights to speech and counter-speech at the event, the “safe harbors” appropriate for the event, the process for warning attendees to cease a disruption, the process for revoking attendees’ permission to be present at the event and the potential for student conduct or criminal proceedings against persons who engage in disruptive behaviors.
       
    2. The academic marshal(s) may confer with the event sponsor, the senior UNH Police Department official and interested persons regarding the content of the “safe harbor” announcement.
       
    3. The speaker, the event sponsor, the leasing authority or any police officer may ask the academic marshal(s) to warn an attendee or group of attendees that they are disruptive.
       
    4. The speaker, the event sponsor, the leasing authority or any police officer may ask the academic marshal(s) to authorize the removal of an attendee or group of attendees who have received a warning and begin, continue, or renew any disruption.
       
    5. Upon confirming that a warning has been given to an attendee, law enforcement officers, staff of the leasing authority and/or academic marshal(s) may direct an attendee to leave the event.
       
    6. Only trained law enforcement officers will apply physical force to remove disruptive attendees unless there is a public safety emergency.
       
  6. This protocol shall be shared with event sponsors and individuals or groups that provide advance notice that they intend to engage in response or counter-speech at any event.