UCF strongly supports students’ First Amendment rights of free speech and free expression, and encourages you to make your voice heard. The university is committed to the Campus Free Expression Act, which guarantees that members of the UCF community and members of the general public can come to campus without any prior notice to speak, carry signs, pass out leaflets, circulate petitions, record interactions in public areas of campus, or engage in other expressive activity.
All outdoor areas of campus that are generally accessible to the UCF community are also usable by any member of the public for any spontaneous expressive activity. Certain outdoor areas of campus are not open to the community and therefore are also not available for use by members of the public – for example, the grounds of the Burnett House; recreational and athletic fields; the yards and courtyards of individual Greek Park housing units; and the grounds and playground of The Creative School for Children. Other areas – such as sidewalks, walkways, and grassy areas between buildings – are generally accessible to the UCF community and are, therefore, also usable by members of the public for expressive activities.
Use of outdoor areas of campus for expressive activities is permitted as long as the use does not violate the law and does not materially and substantially disrupt the functioning of the university or infringe upon the rights of others to engage in expressive activities. For example, students, faculty and staff cannot “materially disrupt” previously scheduled or reserved activities on campus occurring at the same time.
To prevent disruption to university operations and other events, UCF has rules that place reasonable restrictions on the time, place, and manner of use of outdoor areas of campus. Disruption includes hindering the flow of vehicular or pedestrian traffic; blocking entrances and exits from buildings or parking structures/lots; violating any applicable law; threatening other individuals in a manner that an objectively reasonable person would interpret as a serious expression of an intent to cause present or future harm to an identifiable person or group of persons; materially and substantially disrupting scheduled university events occurring at the same time; utilizing sound amplification unless specifically permitted by the university; or obstructing or attempting to physically force the cancellation or continuance of a speaker.
The Campus Free Expression Act does not cover commercial speech. Members of the public who wish to come onto the campus for commercial purposes must abide by the university’s commercial rules, including the University Regulation governing solicitation on campus (Regulation UCF-4.010).
Members of the UCF community – and members of the public with no connection to the university – are not limited to any particular outdoor areas of campus for the purposes of engaging in speech and other expressive activities, and are not required reserve space. This is similar to the rights students have always had to use the campus grounds. Students and student groups are welcome to make reservations with the Office of Student Involvement to use certain campus locations for organized gatherings or other events. But keep in mind that other campus regulations may apply depending on the nature of the gathering or demonstration – for example, a large gathering or a march or highly amplified sound may be subject to additional requirements to ensure safety and continuity of campus operations.
The Campus Free Expression Act, at Florida Statutes s. 1004.097, is a law directed at public colleges and universities in Florida. The Act directs public colleges and universities to allow visitors to freely use “outdoor areas of campus” for expressive activities; permits the college or university to establish reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions on such use; prohibits “free speech zones” or policies that restrict speech to particular areas of the campus; and prohibits students, faculty, or staff of the public college or university from materially disrupting previously scheduled or reserved activities on the campus.
The Act addresses “outdoor areas of campus,” which are defined as outdoor spaces on the campus to which all members of the campus community are commonly allowed. The Act specifically talks about grassy areas, walkways, and similar “common areas.”
The Act defines “outdoor areas of campus” in a way that excludes “outdoor areas of campus to which access is restricted.” At UCF, this includes such outdoor areas as athletic fields, recreational fields, Burnett House grounds, the yards of individual Greek Park Housing units, and the Creative School for Children yard and playground.
The Act says that “material and substantial disruption” means “any conduct that intentionally and significantly hinders another person’s or group’s expressive rights.” The Act also says that “material and substantial disruption” does NOT include “conduct that is protected under the First Amendment” including such First Amendment conduct as “lawful protests and counterprotests in the outdoor areas of campus or minor, brief, or fleeting nonviolent disruptions that are isolated or brief in duration.” We believe that this definition, in less legal terms, says that material and substantial disruption means that the expressive rights of another are so interfered with that they effectively cannot exercise their rights to engage in expressive activities. What is clear is that a peaceful counterprotest is not materially and substantially disruptive unless it makes it unreasonable for a speaker to try to continue their expressive activity.
No. Students and student groups can make reservations to hold events or assemblies in outdoor areas of campus. Please work with the Office of Student Involvement if you wish to do so. UCF believes that campus departments, students, and student groups constitute a special constituency when it comes to UCF, its resources and its campus. Also, remember that speakers engaged in a previously scheduled event cannot be disrupted by a speaker who shows up unannounced and wants to use the same space – the one with the reservation/previously scheduled activity will have priority in the space.
Market Day is an organized and prescheduled event where vendors make reservations – so the event space will be restricted to the purposes of the event. Commercial speech is speech in which the individual is engaged in commerce, the intended audience is actual or potential consumers (or is commercial), and the content of the message is commercial. Basically, commercial speech is when someone is trying to sell something or otherwise engage in a transaction for some value – the value doesn’t have to be monetary.
No. UCF recognizes that campus is home for many students – and, therefore, UCF does not permit speakers or events between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, or between midnight and 8 a.m. Friday and Saturday. UCF does not allow individuals or groups to be disruptive when they engage in expressive activities. For example, a speaker cannot block traffic or interfere with people’s ability to get in and out of campus buildings. A speaker cannot use amplified sound unless specifically permitted by UCF. A speaker cannot locate himself right outside of a classroom and speak in a manner that disrupts a class. A speaker cannot interfere with the rights of others to speak – so, a speaker cannot use the space being used by another speaker who has a reservation, cannot disrupt a campus event occurring at the same time, and cannot shout down another speaker. Additionally, UCF does not allow speakers to violate the law – so UCF does not permit speakers to be violent, to damage property, or to criminally threaten or assault others.
It depends. Outdoor areas of campus are public. If the conversation is occurring in an “outdoor area of campus” and a student, employee or visitor is purposely speaking loudly enough to be heard by passers-by, or the conversation is occurring where the speaker knows that others can listen in, then the speaker likely has no reasonable expectation of privacy in that setting, and the speaker can be recorded and that recording can be posted online. But if the participants in a conversation are trying not to be overheard and have positioned themselves away from others, even if they are in an outdoor area of campus, they may have a reasonable expectation of privacy in that conversation and, if so, should not be recorded. Some people visit campus to talk about controversial topics, hoping to get into a heated debate with our students, record the encounter, and then post it in a way that casts a negative light on our students. Just remember, you have no obligation to stop and listen to or engage with anyone. Likewise, if you are the one speaking, nobody has to stop and listen to or engage with you.
If you did not reserve the space for your plans, then the speaker who is there before you has priority in that space at that time. There are plenty of other outdoor spaces on campus – just find another one and go there with your friends to talk politics. And, remember to talk to the Office of Student Involvement about making a reservation for future gatherings of your group.
Speech cannot be restricted by UCF because of the offense or emotional distress that it causes. “Hate speech” is a term that does not have a hard-and-fast definition in the law, because people use the term in various ways. But to the extent that “hate speech” is defined as speech expressing generalized hatred of a particular group on the basis of attributes such as race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, sexual expression, political leanings, sex, age or disability, then, yes, people can come to campus and engage in hate speech – so long as they do not become disruptive to campus operations or violate the law in doing so. This is a hard thing for many people to accept, but it is the result of the historical placement of free speech as one of the most strongly protected rights in our country. The First Amendment does have limits. For example, the First Amendment does not protect speech where a speaker targets a particular individual (or small identified group of individuals) for harm, such as a true threat of physical violence. The First Amendment also does not protect targeted unlawful harassment, the frequency and severity of which effectively denies an individual's ability to participate in or benefit from education, employment or university programs and activities. The First Amendment also does not protect a speaker who disrupts campus operations while speaking, such as by blocking the entrance to a building. If a speaker’s behavior violates the law or disrupts the functioning of the university, it can be stopped. This is a very brief summary of what is a very complicated area of the law, so please understand that this answer is necessarily incomplete.
All UCF Police officers take an oath to protect and uphold the U.S. Constitution, including the First Amendment guaranteeing free speech. UCFPD may respond to campus events, assemblies and demonstrations to protect all individuals’ rights to lawful free expression and to keep the peace. Officers are not there to take a stance on the issue or speaker but rather to protect everyone’s right to express themselves in a safe manner.
House Bill 233, which was adopted by the Florida Legislature during the 2021 session, amends existing state law to add five new provisions. They are:
· Requiring the Board of Governors, which oversees Florida’s public universities, to develop a survey meant to measure the intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity among students, faculty members and staff members at Florida’s universities. The survey will be conducted annually, starting Sept. 1, 2022.
· Prohibiting the Board of Governors and universities from shielding students, faculty or staff from protected free speech, which may include speech they find uncomfortable, unwelcome, disagreeable, or offensive.
· Allowing students to record audio and/or video of class lectures for their own personal educational use, to use as part of a complaint to the university, or to use as evidence in or preparation for a criminal or civil proceeding.
· Providing Student Government officers who have been disciplined, suspended or removed from office the right to directly appeal the decision to a senior university administrator.
· Requiring all public universities in Florida to adopt student codes of conduct that provide certain due process protections.
Amendments to state statute become law on July 1, 2021.
Changes to state law adopted by the Legislature seek to ensure that potentially objectionable information that’s protected as free speech is not kept from students or employees of Florida’s public universities. Florida’s state universities may not limit your access to or observation of ideas and opinions you may find uncomfortable, unwelcome, disagreeable or offensive.
UCF has always been committed to protecting free speech, so you should notice few, if any, changes. Students on our campus have always been encouraged to make their voice heard, and this legislation does not change that. Instead, it makes students’ free speech rights more explicit by affirmatively stating the longstanding principle that public universities may not limit access to speech based on its content.
UCF has always been strongly committed to free speech – by students, employees, invited speakers and visitors. The university supports Florida’s Campus Free Expression Act, which allows visitors to freely use outdoor areas of campus for expressive activities.
No, so long as you are enrolled in the class and are recording the lecture for one of the permitted purposes listed in the statute. You have the right to record class lectures for one of three purposes: (1) your own personal educational use; (2) in connection with a complaint to the university; or (3) as evidence in, or preparation for, a civil or criminal proceeding. As long as you are making the recording for one of these purposes, you do not need the faculty member’s consent to record the class lecture. But keep in mind that recordings may not be used to engage in academic dishonesty, or as a substitution for participation in class.
A class lecture is defined as a formal or methodical oral presentation as part of a university course intended to present information or teach enrolled students about a particular subject. A class lecture will occur most often in a course identified by the university as a lecture type course, whether online or in-person, as opposed to a lab course or a course section identified as a discussion section.
No. The definition of class lecture does not include other classroom activities such as class discussions, unless those discussions are incidental to, and incorporated within, a class lecture. A class lecture also does not include student presentations (whether individually or part of a group), lab sessions, clinical presentations such as patient history, academic exercises involving student participation, test or examination administrations, field trips, or private conversations during a class session. These activities may not be recorded without the express consent of all participants. Your faculty member or instructor may or may not announce when the lecture portion of a class has ended, but it is up to you to ensure that you do not record at an impermissible time.
No, not without the faculty member's written consent. While you may record the class lecture, you may not publish the recording without permission. In this context, the word “publish” means to share, transmit, circulate, distribute or otherwise provide access to the recording, regardless of format or medium, to another person (or other persons), including but not limited to another student in the class. Additionally, a recording, or transcript of the recording, is published if it is posted on or uploaded to, in whole or in part, any media platform, including but not limited social media, book, magazine, newspaper, leaflet, picket signs, or any mode of print.
Yes, you may publish the recording to university officials or state and federal government officials in connection with a complaint made to or against the university, or you may publish the recording as evidence during civil or criminal legal proceeding. If you wish to make a complaint to the university,
please utilize the UCF IntegrityLine, a secure reporting system available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Complaints can be submitted anonymously at the UCF Integrity Line or toll-free at 1-855-877-6049.
If you do publish your recording of a class lecture without the faculty member’s written permission, and it is not in connection with a university complaint or as evidence in a criminal or civil legal proceeding, you could face severe legal and/or disciplinary consequences. Per HB 233, your unauthorized use of the recording allows the faculty member to take you to court for damages, including attorneys’ fees, totaling as much as $200,000.00. Additionally, you may be referred to the Office of Student Conduct and Academic Integrity for a potential violation of the student code of conduct as described in the Golden Rule.
If you have an accommodation through Student Accommodation Services (“SAS”) to record class activities, that will not change. However, you should be sure not to share the recordings without the faculty member’s written consent. Please contact SAS with any questions about your accommodation.
All state universities were required to include additional due process protections in their Student Code of Conduct. These include a presumption of innocence for students and student organizations accused of conduct violations; a burden of proof that must be carried by the institution; the right to an impartial hearing officer; and the right to have an attorney, advisor or advocate participate in conduct proceedings at the student’s or student organization’s expense.