We value free speech at Missouri State University.
Free speech protected by state, federal laws
We are committed to providing an environment where issues can be openly discussed and explored. The freedom to exchange views is essential to the mission of the University. You can learn more about speech activities on our campus by reviewing the University’s Expressive Activity Policy.
Additionally, we are obligated to comply with state and federal laws on campus expressive activity. As a public university, Missouri State University has very limited ability to regulate expressive activities on the outdoor areas of campus. The University’s legal ability to regulate speech in such areas is generally limited to time, place and manner restrictions. These restrictions are set forth in the Expressive Activity Policy.
As you know, expressive activities on campus include a spectrum of topics. Students advocate for their student organizations and activities. Members of the public distribute literature about subjects important to them. Individuals seek signatures on petitions for ballot initiatives. Students and others make their voices heard with regard to the way the University is administered and state and federal policy matters.
What to do when you face unwelcome speech
Unfortunately, not everyone uses their speech rights responsibly. From time to time people, such a “Brother Jed” and others, come to our campus to offer strongly worded messages in an effort to antagonize students, faculty and staff about their appearance, behaviors and way of life.
Given the legal limitations on the University’s ability to regulate expressive activities, I recommend that our students, faculty and staff take certain actions when they encounter such situations:
- If you do not like the things someone is saying, I encourage you to keep walking and not engage with the speaker. You are, of course, well within your rights to stop and engage in the expressive banter; however, if you do so, you are almost certain to continue to hear comments that you will find offensive.
- If a speaker has crossed the line from making offensive comments to threatening or harassing an individual or group of bystanders, you should report the incident immediately to the administration. You may do so by contacting the University’s office of safety and transportation at (417) 836-5509. Other means of reporting complaints to University administration are set forth in the Student Complaint Procedures Policy.
- If you believe it is safe to do so, you may make a video or audio recording of the activities. This recording could be useful in determining whether the speaker’s remarks were legally protected speech or illegal threats or harassment.
- If you encounter bias-related situations or concerns that you believe can be remediated with voluntary interventions, I recommend submitting a Bias Incident Report for review by the University’s Bias Response Team.
As always, we remain vigilant to ensure constitutional rights to free speech on our campus while protecting our students, faculty and staff from illegal threats and harassment.
Thanks for all you do for Missouri State!