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 2017-2018

The First Amendment Conversation Series launched December 2017 with a pilot session that filled up two days after registration opened. The overwhelming interest in the pilot led Colorado State University to expand the number of sessions it was planning for the Spring 2018 semester. The series is designed to provide resources, information, and best practices for faculty and staff as they navigate issues and questions around the First Amendment and free speech on campus. Although seating is limited, participants are welcome to register for any and all of the available sessions, as the conversation may evolve differently each time. Panelists at each session include 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 Kalie McMonagle of the Center for Public Deliberation.

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.

All sessions are free, but prior registration is required due to limited seating. Register at: First Amendment Conversation Series.

The First Amendment on Campus: What Faculty & Staff Need to Know

  • December 13, 2017, 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., Iris & Michael Smith Alumni Center, Event Hall
  • February 14, 2018, 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., Lory Student Center, Room 382
  • March 1, 2018, 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., LSC, Cherokee Park Room

The First Amendment on Campus: Proactive Strategies for Inclusion     

  • March 20, 2018, 3:00-5:00 p.m., LSC, Ballroom A
  • April 3, 2018, 3:00-5:00 p.m., LSC, Cherokee Park Room
  • April 18, 2018, 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., LSC, Cherokee Park Room

Free Speech and Peaceful Assembly Policies on Campus

CSU is committed and required by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to an open exchange of ideas and dissenting points of view, even when such expression might be deemed offensive and run counter to our Principles of Community or other institutional values. It is important to remember that embracing free speech is a core value, and our Principles of Community declare that the university is “committed to freedom of expression, critical discourse, and the advancement of knowledge.” We also uphold the rights of our campus community to present counter-arguments and speak back through peaceful protest and other means. However, it is important to remember that disrupting a speaker or an event is not protected by the First Amendment.

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.

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 baited into a heightened level of emotional reaction or engagement by individuals or groups whose messages you oppose, and 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.

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.

Faculty Resources

Ideas for Conducting Productive Dialogue Around Challenging Topics in the Classroom

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.

A History of Activism & Controversial Speakers on Campus

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.