Freedom of Expression Policy
A. Purpose and Overview of Policy
Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College (ABAC) follows the USG 6.5 Freedom of Expression Policy. For more information, see the University System of Georgia’s Policy on Freedom of Expression, which can be found here: https://www.usg.edu/policymanual/section6/C2653
ABAC is committed to providing an educational environment and work climate that is conducive to the personal and professional development of each individual and to protecting the rights set forth in the First Amendment, which provides for freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and the right to assemble peaceably. In fulfilling its multiple missions as an institution of higher learning, ABAC encourages the free exchange of ideas and remains firmly committed to affording groups and individuals the opportunity to engage in expression on campus. In order to achieve this objective, while at the same time ensuring that the College fulfills its educational mission, the College may regulate the time, place, and manner of expression in order to assure equal opportunity for all persons, to preserve order within the campus community, to protect and preserve College property, to provide a secure environment to individuals exercising freedom of expression, or to further other important institution objectives.
This policy in no way prohibits individuals enrolled at or employed by ABAC (“members of the College community”) from engaging in conversations on campus and does not apply to College-sponsored activities, but rather only establishes a designated public forum on ABAC’s locations and sets forth requirements for the reservation and use of the Public Forum Area in the following limited circumstances:
(1) members of the College community who plan an event with 30 or more persons; and, (2) individuals or groups who are not members of the College community who wish to speak on an ABAC location. By placing reasonable limitations on time, place, and manner of speech, ABAC does not take a position on the content or viewpoint of the expression, but allows for a diversity of viewpoints to be expressed in an academic setting.
B. Designation of Public Forum on ABAC’s Campus
To better facilitate the free exchange of ideas, ABAC has designated the Public Forum area on different ABAC locations. In Tifton, the area surrounding the fountain near the Carlton Center and Conger Hall is the public forum area on ABAC’s campus (“Public Forum Area”). At the ABAC at Bainbridge site, the public forum area is directly outside the Library. At the ABAC at Blakely site, the Public Forum area is in the outdoor Common area. These Public Forum Areas are generally available from 9:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, provided that the area has not previously been reserved. Though reservations to use the Public Forum Area are only required as set forth in Section C and Section D below, the College recommends that all parties interested in using any Public Forum Area submit a completed Forum Reservation Request Form to the Office of Dean of Students, which is located on the second floor of Branch Hall, prior to use so that the College may minimize scheduling conflicts, accommodate all interested users, and provide for campus safety and security. Reservations will only be processed on days that ABAC’s Administrative Offices are open for business (“college business days”).
C. Provisions for Members of the College Community
Members of the College community who plan to engage in expressive activity on campus in a group that is expected to consist of 30 or more persons must submit a completed Forum Reservation Request Form to ABAC’s Office of Dean of Students two (2) college business days prior to the scheduled activity and must receive approval in writing from a Student Affairs official prior to engaging in such activity. Prior notice is required to ensure that there is sufficient space for the large group event, that necessary College resources are available for crowd control and security, and that the academic and other operations of the College are not disrupted. The Student Affairs official may grant a reservation for a Public Forum Area or another available area of campus, as requested by the applicant, and may only deny a reservation for the limited reasons set forth in the Section E below.
If an individual or small group of individual within the College community, while engaging in spontaneous expression, attracts a group of 30 or more persons, then a representative from the group should provide the College with as much notice as circumstances reasonably permit. The College reserves the right to direct a group of 30 or more persons to the Public Forum Area or another available area of campus in order to ensure the safety of campus members, to provide for proper crowd control, and to limit disruption of the academic and other operations of the College. When relocating expression, the College official must not consider or impose restrictions based on the content or viewpoint of the expression.
D. Provisions for Outside Speakers
Individuals or groups of persons who are not enrolled at or employed by ABAC may only engage in expressive activity in the Public Forum Area and only after submitting a completed Forum Reservation Request Form to ABAC’s Office of Dean of Students at least two (2) college business days prior to the scheduled speech and obtaining approval for such use in writing from a Student Affairs official pursuant to the procedures set forth in Section E below. Organizers are encouraged to submit their requests as early in the planning stages of the event as possible. This provision does not apply to any classroom instruction or College-sponsored events.
E. Procedures for Forum Reservation Requests and Appeals
Completed Forum Reservation Request Forms should be submitted to ABAC’s Office of Dean of Students, which is located on the second floor of Branch Hall, at least two (2) college business days prior to the scheduled expression. This form can be found at: https://stallionsabac.sharepoint.com/:b:/s/Resources/EfsEu84_jR1FnvXds1e-GMQBEUNbvicWdQDsS8mj1DYLVg?e=zPTnBf.
Reservation scheduling will be coordinated by a Student Affairs official who will grant reservations on a first-come, first-served basis. The Student Affairs official will respond to all requests as soon as possible, but in no event more than one college business day after receipt of the reservation request, either authorizing the reservation and noting any special instructions, if applicable, or setting forth the reason for denial of the reservation.
The Student Affairs official may only deny a reservation request for one of the following reasons:
The Forum Reservation Request Form is not fully completed;
The Forum Reservation Request Form contains a material falsehood or misrepresentation;
The Public Forum Areas have been previously reserved, in which case the College will designate another appropriate date, time, or location to accommodate the expression;
The use or activity intended by the applicant would conflict with or disturb previously planned programs organized and conducted by the College;
The Public Forum Areas are not large enough to accommodate the expected or actual number of persons engaging in large group expression, in which case the College must provide a reservation for the applicant at an alternate location that can safely accommodate the expression provided that the applicant is a member of the College community and that such a location exists on campus of the College;
The use or activity intended by the applicant would present a danger to the health or safety of the applicant, other members of the College community, or the public; or
The use or activity intended by the applicant is prohibited by law, ABAC policy, or Board of Regents policy.
When assessing a reservation request, the Student Affairs official must not consider or impose restrictions on the expression based on the content or viewpoint of the expression.
Any denial of a reservation request may be appealed to the Vice President for Academic Affairs (VPAA)
in writing setting forth the reasons why the appeal should be granted. The VPAA or designee must respond to the appeal in writing within one college business day. The decision of the VPAA or designee is final.
F. Written Material
Members of the College community may distribute non-commercial pamphlets, handbills, circulars, newspapers, magazines, and other materials that are protected by the First Amendment on a person-to- person basis in open outdoor areas of campus. An individual who is not a member of the College community may only distribute written materials within the Public Forum Area and only during the time in which the individual has been granted a reservation to use the Public Forum Area. Handbills cannot be placed on cars. The College maintains a position of neutrality as to the content of any written material distributed on the campus under this policy.
G. General Provisions
In addition to the requirements set forth above, all individuals expressing themselves on ABAC’s campus must comply with the following provisions:
Disruptive Activity - Obstruction, disruption, or interference with classes, administrative functions, or other college activities or events is not permitted. Likewise, infringement on the rights of others is prohibited. Any attempt by repeated demands, threats, or otherwise to coerce passersby into stopping and participating in debate or discussion is prohibited.
Reasonable Access - Expression must not block access to or exit from any office, classroom, laboratory, or building. Likewise, vehicular and pedestrian traffic should not be obstructed.
Picketing and Distribution of Literature - Picketing in an orderly manner or distributing literature outside of the Free Speech Area is acceptable with the appropriate permit. Picketing is not permitted inside campus buildings. Literature may be distributed in the public areas of the campus and in public areas in certain campus buildings after receiving the appropriate permit. It is not permissible to post materials on any walls, windows, doors, sidewalks, trees, light poles, etc., or on any other college equipment without prior approval.
Noise - Sound amplification is not permitted. Noise levels should not interfere with classes, meetings, or activities in progress or the privacy of residence hall students.
Presenting Identification - It is not permitted for any person on any property either owned or controlled by the College to refuse to identify him/herself by presenting a student or faculty/staff ID card or driver’s license.
Damage to Property - Care should be taken to ensure that College and personal property is not damaged or destroyed. This includes the campus lawns, shrubs, and trees. Malicious or unwarranted damage to or destruction of property owned or operated by the College or students, faculty, staff, or visitors to the College is prohibited. Persons or organizations causing such damage may be held financially and/or legally responsible.
Prohibition on Litter - All structures, signs, and litter resulting from any expression must be removed following the expression. Persons or organizations involved in or sponsoring the expression may be held financially responsible for cleanup costs.
Compliance with Laws, Policies, and Regulations - All individuals expressing themselves on campus must comply with state, federal, and local law; municipal ordinances; ABAC policies and regulations; Board of Regents policies and regulations; and the above guidelines and must not engage in violence or incite others to engage in violence or commit illegal or dangerous acts.
Failure to comply with all applicable laws, ordinances, policies, and regulations may result in immediate removal from the campus and any other appropriate action legal or disciplinary action.