First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.  

~ Passed by Congress September 25, 1789
Ratified December 15, 1791

CSU First Amendment Conversation Series 2018-19

First Amendment Conversation Series

CSU’s First Amendment Conversation Panel held at the Iris & Michael Smith Alumni Center, December 13, 2017. The conversation series is hosted by the Multicultural Staff & Faculty Network and the Office of the President, in partnership with the Vice President for Diversity and the Center for Public Deliberation.

The First Amendment Conversation Series launched at Colorado State University in December 2017 and has received overwhelming interest from the campus community. The series is designed to help faculty and staff understand the rights and restrictions of free speech and peaceful assembly on campus, and to provide resources, information, and best practices for navigating issues and questions as they arise in the classroom and elsewhere at CSU. Panelists at each session included Jason Johnson and Jannine Mohr, CSU Office of the General Counsel; Tom Milligan, Vice President for External Relations; and Ria Vigil, Office of the Vice President for Diversity. Facilitation is provided by the Center for Public Deliberation.

Session I – The First Amendment on Campus: What CSU Faculty and Staff Need to Know

Three sessions are being offered in the Fall 2018 semester. Faculty and staff are welcome to attend the same session more than once, as the conversation may be different every time, depending on what the audience wants to discuss.

While the series is free, registration is required. You can register at the following links:

Session II – The First Amendment on Campus: Proactive Strategies for Inclusion

These sessions will be offered in the Spring 2019 semester. Dates and registration information will be posted on this site by mid-January 2019.

Free Speech on Campus: Protections & Limits

There are several events held each year on campus – speakers, political rallies, demonstrations, and non-political activities such as sporting events – which may inspire you to exercise your rights under the First Amendment. As a state institution of higher education, the University celebrates, honors, and respects the First Amendment and your right to free speech. However, those rights are not without limit, and it’s important to understand what constitutes protected expressive activity and what is not permitted at this public university.

CSU has a Free Speech and Peaceful Assembly policy, which you can access online. This policy describes how the rights to free speech and peaceful assembly are afforded and protected by the University. The policy includes the following about disruptive activity, access, and symbolic protests:

  • Disruptive Activity: Any act that unreasonably interferes with the rights of others to peaceably assemble or to exercise the right of free speech, disrupts the normal functioning of the University, damages property, or endangers health or safety is specifically prohibited.
  • Reasonable Access: The University is required by law to provide and maintain reasonable access to, and exit from, any office, classroom, laboratory, or building. This access must not be obstructed at any time.
  • Symbolic Protest: Displaying a sign, gesturing, wearing symbolic clothing, or otherwise protesting silently is permissible unless it is a disruptive activity or impedes access to facilities. In addition, such acts should not block the audience’s view or prevent the audience from being able to pay attention to a lawful assembly and/or an official University event.

For more information, download this handout: 

Free Speech, Protests and other Expressive Activities on Campus: Know Your Rights & Responsibilities

What can I do if I object to or am concerned about a speaker scheduled to come to CSU?

Today college campuses are at the epicenter of discourse about free speech and hate speech. This has put universities in a difficult position: not wanting to enable the normalization of hate speech while remaining obligated to uphold our Constitution and the First Amendment, which can protect the expression of hateful speech.

So, what can you do if you object to a speaker coming to campus or their message? There are several options for faculty, staff and students:

  • Avoid the event to minimize attention for the speaker and their agenda
  • Attend the speech and express counter views during permitted open comment
  • Participate in a peaceful protest
  • Schedule an alternative speaker
  • Schedule an alternative event

Additionally, resist being used as a political prop and baited into a heightened reaction by individuals or groups whose messages you oppose. Be aware that they might videotape or photograph such reactions to use on social media and online publications for their group’s own promotion, recruitment and fundraising purposes.

Faculty Resources

The Provost’s Office and the Office of the Vice President for Diversity have compiled pedagogical resources that faculty might consult in order to be prepared to engage their students around First Amendment topics as they emerge and evolve on campus. The resources include a guide to assist and encourage classroom discussion pertaining to campus events, speakers and free speech issues that occur throughout the year. The guide is designed to help faculty facilitate these types of learning opportunities, while mitigating harm and promoting dialogue.

How to Respond to Incidents of Bias & Hate

What are incidents of bias and hate, and what should you do if you are the target of such incidents or witness someone else being targeted? The Southern Poverty Law Center suggests steps you can take, and there is a Tell Someone system in place at CSU that allows you to report incidents of bias and hate on campus. See the How to Respond to Incidents of Bias & Hate resource page.

CSUnite Walk & Community Gathering

CSUnite: No Place for Hate, an all-university walk and community gathering, took place on March 29, 2018

CSUnite: No Place for Hate took place on Thursday, March 29, 2018, an all-university walk and community gathering to stand up for our university principles and demonstrate that CSU is No Place for Hate. Nearly 3,000 faculty, staff, students and Fort Collins community members gathered at Newton’s Corner to hear speakers and march together in solidarity to the Lory Student Plaza for the remaining program. Following the program, there were opportunities for learning and action. President Tony Frank announced the event in his Spring Break Message to campus.

This event promoted an inclusive campus and to acknowledge we cannot move forward as a community unless we do so together. Organized as a peaceful assembly against hate, CSUnite was part of the ongoing work across the institution to stand up to ignorance and hate with education, knowledge, and understanding.  Click here for more information on CSUnite.

Think Tank: Free Speech Summit

Tony Frank, Chancellor and President of Colorado State University, Dr. Dorothy Horrell, Chancellor of the University of Colorado Denver, and Timothy Mottet, President of Colorado State University Pueblo, participate in a pannel discussion moderated by Shannon Archibeque-Engle during the Think Tank: Free Speech Summit. April 13, 2018
Shannon Archibeque-Engle (far left) from the Colorado State University Office of the Vice President for Diversity moderated the Presidents' Panel during the Think Tank: Free Speech Summit, which featured CSU President and CSU System Chancellor Tony Frank; Dorothy Horrell, chancellor of University of Colorado Denver; and Timothy Mottet, president of CSU-Pueblo.

Colorado State University’s Office of the Vice President for Diversity hosted a free speech summit in April 2018 in partnership with the Colorado Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education and in collaboration with the Colorado State University’s Office of the President.  The summit attracted about 120 participants from campuses along the Front Range from Pueblo to Wyoming. University administrators, faculty, staff and students attended sessions on topics ranging from First Amendment legal issues to proactive public relations and admissions considerations, the importance of communication among groups impacted by incidents, the role of the administration in supporting faculty in the classroom, and how faculty and staff can help targeted students. The summit also included a panel of university presidents who talked about the challenges in finding a balance between the free exchange of ideas that is part of the nature of college campuses and protecting all members of the academic community from hate speech and incidents of bias.

Statements to Campus

These statements were sent to campus by Colorado State University leadership addressing matters involving the First Amendment, free speech, peaceful assembly, potential controversial speakers and hate group activities on campus.

A History of Activism & Controversial Speakers on Campus

May 7-8, 1970, a student strike supported by many faculty members was held on the LSC Plaza, protesting the U.S. invasion of Cambodia.

Political debate and activism on college campuses is, of course, nothing new. There is a long history of it in this country, including here at CSU dating back to the 1930s. For a more extensive look at the history of activism and controversial speakers at CSU visit this page.