iStock Images

The University has tightened its policy for outsiders who want to make a speech, protest, hand out leaflets or otherwise exercise free-speech rights on Grounds.

To meet constitutional tests, the new rules focus on the time, place and manner of the speech, not its content.

Unaffiliated groups, capped at 25 to 50 people, must now apply one to four weeks in advance for permission to stage a speech event. They are allowed no more than one two-hour block per week,  occurring weekdays between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.

The policy designates nine outdoor speech zones: Nameless Field, the west side of Brooks Hall, in front of Brown Residential College, Mad Bowl, a field near O-Hill Dining Hall, Newcomb Plaza, McIntire Amphitheatre, in front of University Hall, and the Park complex on North Grounds. Space assignments are limited, with student groups and other insiders getting priority.

“The basic idea is that people who aren’t affiliated with the University, who want to come and engage in nonviolent speaking and expression here, will sign up in advance,” says Risa Goluboff, Dean of the UVA School of Law and chairwoman of the Deans Working Group. “That enables the University to protect their speech by knowing they’re coming, to ensure safety and protection [on Grounds], to be on notice of any potential counter-speech and to be able to protect speakers on all sides of an issue.”

Goluboff notes that University policies already prohibit violence, and the First Amendment protects only nonviolent expression.

Current students and University employees acting within the scope of their jobs are considered affiliated parties. Alumni are considered unaffiliated, as they were under the previous policy.

The revisions, which the deans group crafted in consultation with the Office of the University Counsel and law faculty First Amendment experts, are based on the policy at the University of Maryland, which has been upheld by the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the federal circuit that also covers Virginia. UVA President Teresa A. Sullivan formed the working group after neo-Nazis marched through Grounds wielding tiki torches the night before the deadly Unite the Right rally in August 2017.

Related Content