The First Amendment

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which protects one of our most basic freedoms, states:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

As noted by Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall in the case of Police Department of Chicago v. Mosley (1972), "above all else, the First Amendment means that government has no power to restrict expression because of its message, its ideas, its subject matter, or its content."

First Amendment FAQs

Yes. SLCC's Campus Speech Policy is available online.

Generally, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects all speech except:

  • Obscenity (such as child pornography)
  • Defamation (libel and slander)
  • Speech involving illegal conduct
  • Criminal threats, defined as willfully threatening to commit a crime that will result in death or great bodily injury to another person, with the specific intent that the statement is to be taken as a threat, even if there is no intent of actually carrying it out. The threat must be, on its face and under the circumstances in which it is made, so unequivocal, unconditional, immediate, and specific as to cause the person threatened to reasonably fear for their safety or their immediate family's safety.
    • Hanging a noose on a college campus for the purpose of terrorizing members of the campus community with the knowledge that it is a symbol representing a threat to life.
    • Obstruction of a police officer.
    • Fighting or challenging another to fight in a public place.
    • Use of offensive words in a public place which are inherently likely to provoke an immediate violent reaction (e.g., "fighting words").
    • Inciting illegal activity.
    • Willful disturbance of any lawful meeting.
    • Unlawful assembly and refusal to disperse.
    • Vandalism and defacing property.
    • Disturbance by loud and unreasonable noise.
    • Trespass.

Yes. SLCC values academic freedom and the exchange of ideas within the SLCC community, including ideas that may be unpopular or controversial. However, SLCC encourages civility and will address issues of safety and illegal acts.

Protests and civil disobedience have played an historic role on college campuses in bringing meaningful and significant changes within society and in the development of our democracy. However, civil disobedience is not protected speech under the Constitution. The First Amendment does not guarantee any right to engage in civil disobedience - which, by definition, involves violating laws or regulations - without consequences. Civil disobedience may have a negative effect on the protected interests of others and may interfere with SLCC's business, threaten public safety, or threaten SLCC assets in ways that require SLCC to act to protect those other interests and assets.

SLCC's Code of Student Rights & Responsibilities supports SLCC's Mission, Vision, and Values. SLCC recognizes its responsibility to support and uphold the basic freedoms and rights of all students in the context of the entire educational setting, including experiences both in and out of the classroom. This can best be achieved in an open and supportive environment that encourages reasoned discourse, honesty, and respect for all individuals' rights. Students enrolled at SLCC are expected to conduct themselves in a mature, dignified, civil, and honorable manner.

Hateful or offensive speech is protected by the First Amendment, to the extent it does not involve unprotected speech, such as criminal threats, fighting words, etc. However, hate crimes are not protected by the First Amendment and may be regulated.

According to judges and legal scholars, the best way to respond to hateful or offensive speech is to encourage more speech, not limit it. For example, United States Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis famously wrote, "[i]f there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence." Whitney v. California, 274 U.S. 357, 377 (1927). Likewise, the American Civil Liberties Union believes that where racist, sexist, and homophobic speech is concerned… more speech—not less—is the best response. This is particularly true at colleges, where the mission is to enlighten and facilitate learning through open debate, dialogue, and study.

SLCC does have mechanisms in place for individuals to report incidents of hate and bias that impact campus climate or violate the Student Code and/or other SLCC policies.

SLCC and its administration speaks out against hate speech and will continue to do so. However, the First Amendment precludes SLCC from limiting speech based on content, even when SLCC and its administration vigorously disagree with the viewpoint expressed. Thus, even though hate speech may contravene SLCC's values, individuals engaging in hate speech cannot be punished unless they engage in unprotected speech, defined above.

In accordance with Utah law, individuals may engage in expressive activity in traditional public forums that do not substantially disrupt the essential functions of SLCC.

Yes. The ACLU published a helpful resource to review if you are organizing or participating in an off-campus protest.

The principles of academic freedom protect the rights of scholars in institutions of higher education to freely study, discuss, investigate, teach, and publish without restriction due to religious, political, or economic pressures. These freedoms enable SLCC to advance knowledge and transmit it effectively to students and the public. SLCC also seeks to foster in its students a mature independence of mind and this purpose cannot be achieved unless students and faculty are free to express the widest range of viewpoints in accordance with the standards of scholarly inquiry and professional ethics.

"The college classroom with its surrounding environs is peculiarly the 'marketplace of ideas…'" – Healy v. James, 408 U.S. 169 (1972)

Discussion and expression of all views relevant to the subject matter of a class are necessary to the educational process. However, students have no right to impinge on the freedom of instructors to teach or the right of other students to learn. If a student persists in disrupting class after the instructor has explained that the conduct in question is unacceptable, the instructor may dismiss the student from the class and may also refer the matter to the Dean of Students Office. 

Yes, you'll find it in Section IV. E. of the Campus Speech Policy which states:

  1. Members of the college community and college organizations shall have the right to invite speakers to address audiences on campus (at the expense of the organization and members), subject only to reasonable and nondiscriminatory regulations governing the use of college facilities.
  2. The rights of speakers to freedom of expression under the constitution of the United States and the constitution of the State of Utah shall be protected.
  3. The rights of speakers to speak and audiences to hear free from undue disruption and interference shall also be protected.
  4. Members of the college community and college organizations who invite speakers to address audiences on or off the campus, except college organizations designated by the college or any college or department as an official organization of the college, may not use the name of the college to imply official college sponsorship of the speaker in advertising or publicizing the event, except to identify the specific location of the event.

There is no bright-line test to determine when protected speech becomes illegal harassment. Generally, to be classified as harassment, speech must be specifically targeted at a student or group of students, and conduct and must be severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive.  The conduct must also actually interfere with the educational process. SLCC remains committed to maintaining an educational environment free of illegal harassment to encourage the free exchange of ideas and robust learning.

Learn more about SLCC's Office of Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) and Title IX

SLCC supports and is committed to open, free, and robust discussion, debate, and exchange of ideas as an indispensable part of its educational mission, particularly when the ideas expressed are controversial and unpopular. SLCC's position is consistent with the United States Supreme Court holding that "the mere dissemination of ideas – no matter how offensive to good taste – on a state university campus may not be shut off in the name alone of conventions of decency." Papish v. Board of Curators of the University of Missouri, et al, 410 U.S. 667 (1973)

SLCC is dedicated to protecting the rights of all members of the SLCC community to engage in free speech, expression, and assembly, except for limitations that are necessary to SLCC's functioning.

The U. S. Constitution and decisions of the United States Supreme Court make it clear that SLCC cannot shield people from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive. SLCC greatly values civility and believes that all members of the SLCC community share the responsibility for maintaining a climate of mutual respect. But concerns about civility and mutual respect do not legally justify prohibiting discussions of ideas, however offensive or disagreeable they may be. However, SLCC also has the duty to restrict expression that violates the law, falsely defames a specific individual, constitutes a genuine threat or harassment, unjustifiably invades substantial privacy and confidentiality interests, or is otherwise directly incompatible with SLCC's functioning. Additionally, SLCC may reasonably regulate the time, place, and manner of expression on SLCC property and over its communication systems to ensure the expression does not disrupt ordinary SLCC functions and activities.

  • The Dean of Students Office
    • Taylorsville Redwood Campus, STC 276
    • (801)957-5027
  • Office of Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO)
    • Taylorsville Redwood Campus, TB 222A
    • (801)957-4561
  • Office of General Counsel
    • Taylorsville Redwood Campus, AAB 211
    • (801)957-4687