Main content
Open expression reminders for activities on campus
Emory gate

Emory’s Respect for Open Expression Policy affirms the rights of community members to assemble and demonstrate peaceably while providing limits to activities that disrupt university operations or impede the rights of others. Because some activities, including protest and dissent, often create tension between groups and individuals, clarifying what is and is not permitted under the policy is an important part of its implementation. 

The following Q&A addresses frequently asked questions regarding how the university responds to certain activities on campus. This Q&A is not comprehensive, but rather covers common questions about expression-related activity on campus.

What spaces can be reserved for expression, protest and dissent?

There are many locations on campus especially conducive to expression, protest and dissent. A list of suggested spaces can be obtained from University Event Services, who can assist with reservations of most spaces on campus or assist in connecting event organizers to those individuals who help manage spaces. 

Is a reservation required for a protest?

Impromptu protests or expression (those occurring without a reservation) are allowed but cannot unreasonably interfere with scheduled classes, meetings, events or other essential operations of the university and cannot violate other university policies and/or guidelines. Impromptu protests or expression cannot occur in spaces where expression-related activities are prohibited (see below). 

Are there spaces where protests and expression are not permitted?

The Open Expression Policy lists specific locations that are not available for expression-related events, meetings or protests. If the focus of the expression activity includes one of these areas, organizers can work with the open expression team to reserve a space close to one of these areas. Unavailable spaces include the following:

  • Offices, research laboratories or associated facilities, and computer centers.
  • Specific areas of offices, museums, libraries and other facilities that contain valuable or sensitive materials, collections, equipment and records protected by law, or by existing university policy such as educational records, student-related or personnel-related records, or financial records.
  • Classrooms, seminar rooms, auditoriums, meeting rooms or outdoor spaces in which classes, private events or meetings are being held or are scheduled to be held during the time of the protest.
  • Outdoor and indoor locations when the free flow of traffic, both vehicular and pedestrian, will be unreasonably impeded; when entrances or exits to offices, classrooms and meeting spaces are blocked; or when undue health and safety risks to members of the community are created.
  • Hospitals, clinics and surrounding green space or grounds (including, but not limited to, sidewalks, access roads, parking areas, etc.), the facilities of health care service providers, emergency facilities, communication systems, utilities or other facilities or services vital to the continued functioning of the university.

Are there time limits for scheduled meetings and events?

The Open Expression Policy describes standards for scheduling expression-related events. Emory’s space reservation system requires that all space reservations begin no earlier than 7 a.m. and conclude at 11:59 p.m.

Some spaces, including buildings that house operational and administrative functions of the university, are unavailable for general reservations after their closing time (typically 5:30 p.m.). Emory does not allow activities to occur in any building after that facility’s business hours. 

Are there limitations on using amplified sound for expression-related activity?

Yes. Because amplified sound can be a significant disruption for the normal operations of the university (classes, studying, meetings, etc.), the use of megaphones, loudspeakers and other amplified sound devices is limited and cannot violate reasonable noise levels. This disruption is typically determined in real time by Emory’s Open Expression Observers, who work directly with individuals to limit or minimize the impact of such noise. 

Where are flyers, posters, banners and chalking permitted?

Such activity is governed by Emory University’s Posting Guidelines and Practices

  • Emory limits flyer postings on building interiors to bulletin boards. Specific posting policies on institutional bulletin boards vary across university buildings. Flyer and/or banner posting is prohibited on sidewalks, streets, building exteriors, benches, light poles, bike racks, windows, doors, landscaping or other unapproved surfaces and spaces.
  • Chalking is permitted on most sidewalks and streets on university property that are exposed to the elements. Chalking is only permitted in areas where the chalk would be washed away by normal rainfall. Chalking is prohibited on building exteriors or other vertical surfaces and on horizontal surfaces covered by permanent structures such as covered walkways, tented entryways and covered terraces. The use of spray chalk or other spray products (toxic or non-toxic) is strictly prohibited.
  • Flyers, posters, banners or chalking that defame, harass or threaten violence will be removed and reviewed by the Bias Incident Response Team and Committee for Open Expression.

Any chalking, flyers, banners or similar activity that violates Emory’s posting guidelines will be removed, typically by a member of Emory’s Facilities Management team. Emory will only remove chalking from unpermitted locations or for special circumstances such as construction or special events, or where the chalking may violate other university policies. Otherwise, chalk messages will remain until dissipated by normal rainfall.

Are weapons permitted on campus during expression-related activities? 

No. Emory’s policies prohibit students, employees (excluding public safety officers), guests or members of the community from bringing any dangerous materials (firearms, weapons, explosives, fireworks, etc.) on campus.

Are there limits on expression-related activity that could result in other policy violations? 

Yes, there are limits on expression-related activities that may violate other university policies, including those that: 

  • Interfere unreasonably with the activities or rights of other persons. Factors that may be considered in determining whether conduct is reasonable include, but are not limited to, the time of day, size of audience, and noise level of a meeting, event or protest.
  • Cause harassment.
  • Use or threaten violence or force or encourage others to use or threaten violence or force.
  • Cause injury to persons or property or threaten to cause such injury.
  • Hold meetings, events or protests under circumstances where the health or safety of persons is endangered.
  • Interfere unreasonably with the general operations of the university.
  • Knowingly interfere with unimpeded movement in a university location. Examples may include preventing access to a building, or blocking any entrances or exits in a way that causes safety concerns.
  • Violate reasonable noise levels, such as but not limited to county noise ordinances.
  • Violate any federal, state, local or other applicable law (e.g., gaining unauthorized access to restricted areas, refusing to leave restricted areas if instructed, defacing of public and/or private property, etc.).

Are counter-protests allowed, and are there limitations on such activity?

Yes, counter-protests and/or dissent are allowed. When such activity occurs, Emory’s Open Expression Observers work to designate areas where opposing groups can express themselves while maintaining the safety of all participants. Open Expression Observers can use their discretion to manage such events with safety being the highest priority (for example, Open Expression Observers may require opposing groups to separate to avoid substantial disruption from each groups’ expression). When two opposing groups are engaged in expression-related activity in close proximity to one another, law enforcement may be present to further promote the safety of participants.

It is a violation of the Open Expression Policy for any individual to unreasonably infringe on the open expression rights of other members of the community.

Are there restrictions on expression-related activities that are deemed to be harassment and/or discrimination?

Yes. The Open Expression Policy states that members of our community cannot violate other policies of the university (such as the student or employee codes of conduct). Individuals are considered to be operating outside the open expression policy if they engage in harassment.

Can expression-related activities be recorded? 

Georgia state law governs recording restrictions (O.C.G.A. § 16-11-62). In general, there are fewer restrictions on recording individuals in a public space than there are in a private space. In many cases, recording in public spaces is permissible.

Because such recordings can have repercussions for individuals participating in expression-related activity including protest and dissent, Emory provides Online Safety and Privacy Resources for members of our community.

Are there benefits to groups registering as officially recognized student organizations at Emory?

There are many benefits that are afforded to registered/officially recognized student groups. Student groups who have not become officially recognized student organizations do not have access to these benefits. Benefits include:

  • Use of the Emory University name to identify institutional affiliation (following Emory brand guidelines) which can include a logo, access to letterhead, and other such benefits.
  • Ability to reserve space on campus/use space on campus (some charges may apply) and the use of university meeting rooms and facilities.
  • Organizational advising, consulting and training by Student Involvement, Leadership and Transitions (SILT) staff.
  • Participation in student activity fairs as hosted by Campus Life or SILT.
  • Ability to be financially supported by other university departments with co-sponsorship funding opportunities.
  • Access to the student organization management database (“The Hub”).
  • Ability to apply for grant opportunities in Campus Life such as Dooley After Dark, the Student Organization Food Grant managed by SGA and/or GSGA and Emory Dining, etc.
  • Other benefits as deemed appropriate by various offices, departments and divisions of Emory University.
  • Ability to apply for Student Activity Fee funds.
  • Access to apply for student organization locker storage.

Do I need to carry my Emory ID (EmoryCard)?

Yes. Your EmoryCard, the official university ID card, should be in your possession at all times and presented upon request to any university official. The card is non-transferable and is property of Emory University. The hosts of invited guests may be asked to provide their university identification and some buildings may only be accessible by EmoryCard access.

Recent News