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Expressive Speech and Demonstration Policy

Rhodes College is committed to fostering a vibrant intellectual environment that encourages open dialogue, robust debate, and the free exchange of ideas among its students, faculty, staff, and invited speakers. This policy outlines the guidelines and procedures for expressive speech activities on campus, including designated demonstration spaces to protect the right to express and learn.

Expressive Speech

  1. Freedom of Expression: Rhodes College upholds the principles of free expression as essential to pursuing knowledge, discovering truth, and developing critical thinking skills. All members of the Rhodes community are entitled to express their viewpoints, opinions, and ideas without fear of censorship, restraint, or discrimination.
  2. Time, Place, and Manner Restrictions: While Rhodes seeks to promote open discourse, it also recognizes the need to balance expressive activities with maintaining campus safety and preserving the educational environment. Reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions may be imposed to ensure that expressive activities do not disrupt the educational process, impede campus operations, or infringe on the rights of others.
  3. Reservation and Notification Process: To ensure the orderly use of designated demonstration spaces and prevent scheduling conflicts, students or student organizations planning to hold demonstrations or similar activities must notify the Dean of Belonging, Dean of Students, or designee at least 48 hours in advance. While notification is recommended, spontaneous demonstrations are also permitted in designated spaces.
  4. Non-Discrimination and Respect for Others: Expressive speech activities must adhere to Rhodes' non-discrimination policy and respect for others. Speech that incites violence, harasses individuals, or creates a hostile environment is not protected under this policy. Disagreements and debates should be conducted civilly and respectfully.
  5. Guest Speakers and Invitations: Rhodes encourages inviting diverse guest speakers and viewpoints to enhance the intellectual diversity on campus. Divisions, departments, offices, and recognized student organizations may invite speakers of their choice, subject to established campus procedures for event planning and safety. 


A currently enrolled student at the college or recognized student organization must be the designated organizer for any expressive activity. Any off-campus person or entity not affiliated with the College wishing to hold such activity on campus must be sponsored by a recognized student organization. Organizers and associated participants speak only for themselves in public events and actions. 

The organizer must ensure the event complies with existing College policies and procedures and applicable state and federal laws and regulations. Organizers intending to use city sidewalks and streets adjacent to the College should make appropriate arrangements with the city of Memphis.

The organizer of any event held on campus will be responsible for ensuring its smooth and orderly execution and any potential liability. The student organizer(s) must also coordinate security, cleanup, and parking arrangements with the Division of Student Life and Campus Safety. 

Campus Safety will review the information the organizer(s) provide and make security and staffing determinations. Recommendations may include but are not limited to additional security staffing, barricades, traffic control, parking control, or venue security. Organizers must cover the costs of any other protection needed for the expressive event.

Requests for promotional support from the Office of Communication must be made promptly, usually at least three weeks before the event. It should be noted that the College reserves the right to promote or not promote an event based on available resources or the nature of the event.

Length of Demonstration Event

The length of any given event may vary. However, campus events will occur within 24 hours; no overnight or multiple-day events are allowed. Events occurring inside spaces must comply with building schedules for opening and closing times, as determined during the space reservation process before the event. Within the above-stated timing parameters, expressive activities will be permitted to continue until and unless the College officials determine that there has been a violation of College policy, interruption of its operations, or the rights of others have been compromised.

Designated Spaces

Rhodes sets specific campus areas as demonstration spaces for students to engage in peaceful and organized protests. These spaces are accessible and conducive to expressing viewpoints while minimizing disruption to academic and administrative activities. 

Expressive speech and activities are conducted in designated spaces approved for reservation by individuals, departments, and recognized organizations. The Division of Student Life, Office of College Events, or Campus Safety can provide interested parties with a list of the available spaces upon request. Expressive activities are not allowed in specific locations such as classrooms, offices, the library, residence hall rooms, and lecture halls to ensure that normal college activities can continue without interruptions. The organizers ensure that corridors, stairways, and doorway entrances remain clear and provide unimpeded passage.

Space Reservation

Faculty and staff organizers of expressive activity events that require a College space are expected to reserve the room on the Events Management online portal. Students planning an event should consult with the Offices of Student Engagement and College Events to make space reservations. These spaces need to be reserved at least two weeks in advance. If an event cannot be planned, the Organizer/Liaison must contact the Dean of Students or Dean of Belonging to determine the space availability and provide contact information before the event begins. Once an event is scheduled, the Office of College Events and the appropriate administrative office (\ Dean of Belonging or Dean of Students) will assist with planning the event details as needed and helpful.

Permissible forms Demonstrations & Protests

Engaging in activities in periods or physical spaces that are external to the event and do not disrupt the event, such as organizing a counter-event (e.g., teach-in) in a different room, holding a rally in an external space, passing resolutions, issuing pre-post event statements, carry signs, distributing flyers and using social media to expressive counterviews. 

Engaging in activities at the event that do not disrupt the event, such as distributing flyers before and after the event, participating in the interactive components of the events in ways that are consistent with the event format (e.g., engagement during the question-and-answer periods), and holding signs that do not block audience members’ views of the event. 


Temporary placards, banners, chalking, and signs used for expressing oneself must comply with the policy outlined in the College Handbook. These items must not harm others or obstruct their participation in the college's activities. If any items fail to meet these expectations, they will be removed.

Campus Disruption

A member of the student body (1) must not prevent or disrupt the effective carrying out of a College function or approved activity, such as lectures, meetings, interviews, ceremonies, conducting college business in an office, and public events, or (2) obstruct the legitimate movement of any person about the campus or in any campus building or facility.

Members of the student body must leave a campus building or facility when asked to do so in the furtherance of the above regulations by a member of the College community acting in an official role and identifying themselves as such; members of the student body also must identify themselves when requested to do so by such a member of the College community who has reasonable grounds to believe that the person(s) has violated section (1) or (2) of this policy and who has so informed the person(s).

The policy applies to the following actions: refusal to leave a building that has been declared closed; obstructing the passage into or out of buildings by sitting in front of doorways; preventing college employees from entering and exiting their workplace; preventing members of a class from hearing a lecture or taking an examination, or preventing the instructor/speaker from giving a talk, employing shouts, interruptions, or chants; refusing to leave a closed meeting when unauthorized to attend; and intruding upon or refusing to leave a private interview.

While the above are examples of extraordinarily disruptive behavior, applying the policy also considers situational factors. Thus, for example, appropriate conduct at a political rally might violate the Policy on Campus Disruptions if it occurs within a classroom.

No "ordinary" penalty attaches to violations of this policy. Infractions may lead to penalties up to suspension or expulsion. The gravity of the offense and the student's prior conduct are considered; however, the more serious the offense, the less it matters that a student has otherwise not done wrong.

Enforcement and Consequences: Violations of this policy are addressed through established Standards of Conduct processes. Consequences for violating the policy may range from warnings to more severe outcomes, depending on the severity and frequency of the violation.

Rhodes College recognizes the importance of this policy in upholding its commitment to intellectual freedom, open discourse, and the pursuit of knowledge. By providing designated protest spaces and fostering an environment where diverse viewpoints can be expressed and debated, Rhodes seeks to prepare students for engaged and informed citizenship in a democratic society.