D10: Free Speech and Public Assembly

Responsibility for Maintenance: Campus Safety and Security

Date of most recent changes: September 27, 2016

I. Policy Statement  

Onondaga Community College recognizes and supports the rights of free speech. This policy informs members of the College community and the public of the manner in which they may engage in constitutionally protected speech and expression at Onondaga Community College. It is intended to ensure the primary educational purpose of the College, which includes promoting debate and the sharing of information.

II. Reason for Policy  

The College will protect the rights of freedom of speech, petition, and peaceful assembly as set forth in the U.S. Constitution. Onondaga Community College maintains the right to regulate reasonable time, place and manner restrictions concerning acts of expression and dissent. Any acts that are disruptive to the normal operations of the College including but not limited to classes and College business, or invades the rights of others, will not be tolerated and may result in termination of the assembly. Faculty, staff and students engaging in disruptive activity may be subject to disciplinary actions. Any participant in a disruptive activity may face criminal charges.

III. Applicability of the Policy  

All members of the College community should be familiar with this policy.

IV. Related Documents  

  • Noise Ordinance, Town of Onondaga

V. Contacts  


Office Name  

Title or Position  

Telephone Number  


Questions regarding
Free Speech and Public Assembly

Campus Safety and Security

Director, Campus Safety and Security

(315) 498-2173



VI. Procedures  

Designated Public Forum
That area located between the Coulter Library and the Ferrante Building, also known as the “Quad”. Other areas of the campus may be designated by the Director of Campus Safety and Security as public forums to accommodate free speech in special circumstances.

Registration and Use of Designated Public Forum
Groups wishing to use the Designated Public Forum for public gatherings, demonstrations or marches should notify the Director of Campus Safety and Security of their intentions. This is to allow an efficient and safe allocation of space, generally to the first group to request it for a particular time. College sponsored events have first priority on the use of campus grounds. The College reserves the right to relocate any assembly to ensure that the activity does not interfere with the normal operation of the College or interfere with the rights of others. At the time of notification to Campus Safety and Security the following information will be required:

  • Name of the person or organization sponsoring the event
  • Location, date and time requested
  • List of planned activities (i.e. speech, rally, march, signs, picketing, distribution of literature)
  • Special equipment being used
  • Anticipated attendance

Volume of Sound Equipment 
Sound amplification is not allowed. In addition, the volume of non-amplified sound may not exceed 70 decibels as set forth in the Noise Ordinance of the Town of Onondaga.

Guidelines for Speech and Public Assembly  

  • Speakers: In view of the desire of the College to promote free speech, the Designated Public Forum area is open to everyone who follows the provisions of this policy.
  • The right to dissent: The right to dissent is the complement of the right to speak, but these rights need not occupy the same forum at the same time. The speaker is entitled to communicate his or her message to the audience and the audience is entitled to hear the message and see the speaker. A dissenter must not substantially interfere with the speaker’s ability to communicate or the audience’s ability to hear and see the speaker. Likewise, the audience must respect the right to dissent.
  • Symbolic Protest: During a presentation, displaying a sign, gesturing, wearing symbolic clothing, or otherwise protesting to the extent it is not a disruptive activity and does not impede access, including, but not limited to blocking the audience’s view or preventing the audience from being able to pay attention.
  • Marches: Marches are acceptable on campus with the appropriate notification to Campus Safety and Security to allow the College to prepare for the march and provide for the necessary safety of the participants and bystanders, as well as to assure adequate parking and maintain the flow of vehicle and pedestrian traffic. The notification should outline expected attendance, and the anticipated parade/march route.

Prohibited Conduct 
The policies and procedures of the College, especially those related to the safety and security of persons and property, must be observed at all times.  In addition, those who schedule speech or public assembly activities on campus must not:

  • Threaten passers-by;
  • Interfere with, impede, or cause blockage of the flow of vehicular or pedestrian traffic;
  • Commit any act likely to create imminent safety or health hazards;
  • Interfere with or disrupt any other lawful or permitted activity by anyone in the same general location at the same time;
  • Post any materials on any buildings, walls, windows, doors, sidewalks, trees, light poles, or any other College owned equipment except in designated areas;
  • Conduct speech that includes words that by their very nature tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace;
  • Engage in any speech or action that is not allowed by law;
  • Engage in any speech that is likely to incite or produce immediate lawless action or that is, under current legal standards, either defamatory or indecent;
  • Incite others to commit any of the acts prohibited.

Assembly Security 
Onondaga Community College reserves the right to charge individuals wishing to use the Designated Public Forum for additional security at a rate determined by the Director of Campus Safety and Security. The Director of Campus Safety and Security will determine the need for and the number of additional Campus Peace Officers to perform security functions during any public assembly event.

Approved by the OCC Board of Trustees August 15, 2011

Updated and approved by the OCC Board of Trustees September 27, 2016