Frequently Asked Questions

How does the university monitor safety on campus? 

Our educational mission is our highest priority, which requires that we focus on the safety and wellbeing of our students and campus community. The university has a Demonstration Education & Safety Team whose charge is to plan for and monitor events to balance freedom of speech with safety, while also minimizing disruption to university operations. This team actively engages and monitors events and situations. The University of Oregon has its own police department that may be called upon to engage in scenarios where illegal activities take place or if there are threats to physical safety.   

What are the university’s rules about free speech? 

Free speech is central to the academic mission and is the central tenet of a free and democratic society, upheld by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and Oregon Constitution. The university also upholds this value through our UO Policy on Freedom of Inquiry and Free Speech and our UO Policy on Academic Freedom

What is the difference between protected and unprotected speech?

Even though the First Amendment uses the word speech, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that it protects a wide variety of expression. This includes what is known as “pure speech,” meaning the spoken word. The First Amendment also protects expression that is written and expression that is typed and published. It protects symbolic speech or expressive conduct (like burning a flag), and it protects speech plus conduct (like peaceably assembling to engage in protests and boycotts).

There are also a limited number of narrow exceptions to what the First Amendment protects. Under Oregon's Constitution, free speech rights are even more expansive, so the list of exceptions in Oregon is even smaller.

The exceptions, where the government can regulate, include situations where immediate violence is provoked, or false statements of fact are spread to injure someone's reputation. They include the following categories:

  • Incitement to imminent lawless action*
  • Illegal activity, including perjury
  • Some forms of theft, forgery and fraud
  • Targeted harassment
  • True threats
  • Child pornography
  • Non-expressive conduct

Whether speech is protected may also depend on the context. While a student may have a right to protest in a public space where protests are allowed, that same student does not have the right to protest in a way that disrupts a classroom or impedes access to university facilities.  

* Advocacy of illegal action at some indefinite point in the future is not the same as unprotected incitement. 

What is hate speech, and is it protected by law?

Hate speech may be offensive and hurtful; however, it is generally protected by the First Amendment. One common definition of hate speech is “any form of expression through which speakers intend to vilify, humiliate or incite hatred against a group or a class of persons on the basis of race, religion, skin color, sexual identity, gender identity, ethnicity, disability or national origin.” Relying on the First Amendment, courts have restricted the ability to regulate or eliminate hate speech on college campuses. However, universities also have an obligation to create a safe, inclusive learning environment for all members of the campus community. In fact, universities must address harassment that creates a hostile environment for members of the campus community. Thus, although hate speech, in isolation, may receive constitutional protection, any expression that constitutes a true threat, incitement to imminent lawless action, targeted discriminatory harassment or defamation can be punished by UO for those reasons. 

How is antisemitism defined?

The university references the US State Department's definition of antisemitism.

What are the university’s rules about protests and demonstrations? 

At the University of Oregon, established guidelines protect the right to free speech, while ensuring that opposing views may also be expressed. The university strives to balance the right to dissent with the right to be heard; the right to speak one’s mind with the right to listen. The university applies its rules and expectations in a manner neutral to the viewpoints expressed. Our guidelines on demonstrations are designed to balance these rights, keeping safety in mind for all those in our community.  

When faced with violations of these policies, the University must balance considerations regarding the safest and most effective manner of enforcement, striving at all times to protect the campus's ability to engage in teaching and learning and prioritizing the physical safety of the campus community.

What if I feel unsafe?   

The physical safety of our students, faculty, and staff is critical to fulfilling our educational mission.

As an institution, we strive to have a campus community where faculty, staff, and students feel comfortable and welcome. The university has multiple support options for students, faculty, and staff. This includes the Office of the Dean of Students, the Care and Advocacy Program, the Counseling Center, and the Duck Nest. Additional information about how students can receive support Is available on the Dean of Students webpage. Students may also make an appointment with a Care and Advocacy Program team member. 

The University of Oregon has its own police department that may be called upon to engage in scenarios where illegal activities take place or if there are immediate, specific, and targeted threats to physical safety. 

Refer to the resources listing below for a complete list for faculty, staff, and students. 

Can the UO prohibit community members from participating in this demonstration? 

Some parts of the university campus are open to the public, meaning members of the community and visitors are free to visit. Visitors to the University of Oregon do however have the responsibility to obey federal and state laws, the municipal code, and University of Oregon rules and policies, and may be cited for trespass or subject to prosecution for any illegal behavior committed on campus. 

What resources are available to faculty, staff or students who need support? 

The University of Oregon provides many resources for community members. Visit the Support and Assistance webpage for more information.

How will information be shared?

Any community updates about specific events and demonstrations are shared via the UO Alerts page or the Free Speech website's University Statements page.

Are students permitted to camp out on UO property?  

In general, no one is allowed to camp on UO property. The university’s Proscribed Conduct policy regarding property and activities, says that university buildings and grounds may not be used for purposes such as cooking and camping.

Does camping violate the student conduct code? 

Camping violates the university’s Proscribed Conduct policy regarding property and activities. The actions of involved students may be subject to investigation by the Dean of Students Office under the Student Conduct Code.