On-Campus Free Speech
Texas Woman’s recognizes freedom of speech and expression as fundamental rights and is committed to ensuring free, robust and uninhibited debate and deliberations by students, faculty, staff and members of the public. The university will protect the rights of freedom of speech, expression, petition and peaceful assembly as set forth in the U.S. Constitution; however, TWU maintains its right to regulate reasonable time, place, manner of speech, assembly and other expressive activities on TWU’s campus.
Background on changes to free speech on college campuses
The 86th Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 18 (SB 18), which guarantees that members of the public are free to engage in expressive speech on public university campuses by converting some parts of campuses to traditional public forums instead of limited public forums. It also contains various requirements and prohibitions related to expressive activities on campuses. The main effect of the new law is to allow any person to engage in free speech activities in the common outdoor areas of the state’s public university campuses. It allows universities to continue to regulate the time, place and manner of free speech activities—so long as these rules are content-neutral and applied regardless of a speaker’s viewpoint.
The new law requires universities to create disciplinary sanctions for students, student organizations and faculty members who interfere with the free speech activities of others.
How does this law affect TWU?
The law converts the university’s outdoor common area to traditional public forums and allows anyone — not just students, faculty members or invited guests — to exercise free speech there, as long as their activities are lawful and don’t disrupt the functions of the campus. Not all outdoor spaces on campus are part of the outdoor common area. The university has defined outdoor common area in its rules.
What are TWU's outdoor common areas?
TWU’s public streets, sidewalks, green space, and similar outdoor areas that are freely accessible to the TWU community and the public. These areas are not used for dedicated TWU business or an event, an educational function, or a research function on a permanent basis. They do not include the outside surfaces of a TWU building, surfaces associated with or connected to a TWU building, a TWU structure, spaces dedicated to temporary outdoor banners, spaces dedicated to temporary outdoor exhibits, or any other space within TWU’s Limited Public Forums. Outdoor common areas are designated by state law as traditional public forums. Outdoor common areas are defined below:
Is an outdoor common area always available for use by anyone for the exercise of expressive activities?
A person or group does not need a reservation for the exercise of expressive activities in the outdoor common area, and spontaneous expressive activity may occur in areas that are not in use. However, once a person or group does reserve a certain space in the outdoor common area for expressive activities, it is not available for another person or group’s use or reservation at that time. In addition, when outdoor space is being used, even on a temporary basis, for university business or events, an educational or research function, it is not part of the outdoor common area available for use for others’ expressive activities. Outdoor common areas are defined below:
What if someone is offended by another person's speech?
Section 51.9315 of the Texas Education Code (“Section 51.9315”) prohibits students, registered student organizations and faculty from unduly interfering with the expressive activities of others on campus. Freedom of speech means that all views have a place for expression—even those that others may find offensive, hurtful or wrong. TWU community members who hear words they don’t like are free to offer their own words in response, but they must always respect the rights of all speakers to share their views. The university has identified some restrictions intended to protect the health and safety of all persons on TWU campus, to maintain the free flow of pedestrian traffic in and out of TWU buildings and to further the educational mission of TWU. See the policy for more details.
Be informed, not just opinionated!
We love to support our students' free speech efforts. If you need assistance or have questions about university policies, contact Civility & Community Standards at 940-898-2968.
Page last updated 8:40 AM, September 2, 2020