Public Forum Policy
Authority: Student Affairs
Date Enacted or Revised: January 2009; Revised August 2015; September 12, 2018; March 18, 2022; August 2, 2022
The Vice President for Student Affairs is the administrative officer charged by the University president with oversight of public forum activities. Contact the Office of Student Services in the New Ranch, Office 102, located at 4300 Jefferson Davis Drive, or by telephone at (337) 475-5609 for information regarding use of public forum areas by individuals and groups not affiliated with the University.
As a publicly supported institution within the University of Louisiana System, McNeese State University values the publicly accessible nature of its campus and facilities and embraces the free and open exchange of ideas in the context of a diverse community of teachers and learners. The University also recognizes its responsibility to maintain focus on its primary educational objectives. As such, the University strongly encourages its students, faculty, and staff to engage in vigorous and collegial debate and discussion within the context of classroom instruction, formal and informal interactions with others, and in social interactions throughout the campus.
University students and employees may freely communicate their ideas through the exchange of verbal and written communications, creative processes and productions, and formal and informal gatherings on the campus at any time and are encouraged to do so in a manner that does not interfere with the University’s capacity to administer its core values of teaching and learning, research, public service, and student success.
It is not the role of McNeese to shield individuals from speech protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America and Article 1, Section 7 of the Constitution of Louisiana, and other applicable laws including without limitation ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive.
Students and faculty have the freedom to discuss any topic that presents itself, as provided under the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America and Article 1, Section 7 of the Constitution of Louisiana and other applicable laws permit and within the limits on time, place, and manner of expression that are consistent with the part and are necessary to achieve a significant institutional interest; such restrictions shall be published and provide ample alternative means of expression.
Any person lawfully present on-campus may protest or demonstrate at McNeese. Protests and demonstrations that infringe upon the constitutional rights of others to engage in or listen to expressive activity by creating a substantial and material disruption to the functioning of the institution or to someone’s expressive activity shall not be permitted.
Public areas of campuses at McNeese are traditional public forums and are open on the same terms to any speaker.
This policy supersedes and nullifies any provision in University policies and regulations that restricts speech on campus.
Persons unaffiliated with the University by virtue of enrollment or employment who wish to conduct activities on the campus which, by their nature, involve engaging in public speech, public demonstrations, political campaigning, and distribution of literature in an effort to appeal to wide audiences and attract interest from internal and external constituents of the campus community, must adhere to the guidelines set forth in this policy. This policy addresses public forum activities conducted by individuals and groups not affiliated with the University that generally fall into the following categories:
- Distribution of literature;
- Political campaigning for public office;
- Public demonstrations; and
- Public speech.
Distribution of Literature
The University recognizes the right of individuals and groups to distribute literature regarding social, cultural, political, religious, and other ideological issues on the campus. To assure distribution activities do not disrupt normal campus processes and operations, the following regulations regarding time, place, and manner of such distribution will apply to individuals and groups not affiliated with the University:
- Distribution Zones: The following locations shall be deemed distribution zones:
- Zone A
- Zone B
- Calendar: Individuals or groups may distribute literature on campus three times per year (once each fall, spring, and summer term) in the assigned distribution zone(s) only.
- Length: Distribution of literature may occur for up to four hours on three consecutive business days for each distribution period. The distribution activity shall be deemed to have begun at the time and date indicated on the application.
The University recognizes the right of candidates for public office and their official and unofficial spokespersons to campaign. To assure campaign activities do not disrupt normal campus processes and operations, the following regulations regarding time, place, and manner of such campaign activities will apply to individuals and groups not affiliated with the University:
- Campaign Zones: The following locations shall be deemed campaign zones:
- Zone A
- Zone B
- Zone C
- Zone D
- Calendar: Individuals may campaign on campus once per month in the 90-day period leading up to a scheduled election date in the assigned campaign zone only.
- Length: Campaign activities may occur for up to two hours on three consecutive business days. The campaign activity shall be deemed to have begun at the time and date indicated on the application.
- Political Signs: Political signs may not be mounted, posted, or affixed anywhere on University property in order to ensure state laws pertaining to electioneering and ethics are upheld at all times.
- Candidate Speeches: Candidates for public office, upon approval by the vice president for student affairs, may offer campaign speeches in the first floor common area of the Student Union Annex. Such speeches are limited to 30 minutes and may occur only once per day on days where campaign activities have been approved.
- Public Appearances by Candidates for Statewide Office: Statewide, elected officials may participate in public activities, such as half-time presentations at athletic events, by request to and upon approval of the University president and as coordinated through the athletics director or their designee. The University respectfully asks that such requests be made only in non-election years.
The University recognizes the right of individuals and groups to conduct peaceful demonstrations. To assure demonstrations do not disrupt normal campus processes and operations, the following regulations regarding time, place, and manner will apply to individuals and groups not affiliated with the University:
- Public Demonstration Zones: The following locations shall be deemed public demonstration zones:
- Zone A
- Zone B
- Calendar: Organized groups may demonstrate on campus once during each fall, spring, and summer term in the assigned demonstration zone only.
- Length: Demonstrations may occur for up to four hours on three consecutive days. The demonstration shall be deemed to have begun at the time and date indicated on the application.
The University recognizes the right of individuals to participate in the free and unfettered exchange of ideas on University property. Persons traversing public sidewalks and streets and common areas on University property may exercise their individual free speech rights at any time as long as they do not block the flow of pedestrian or vehicular traffic, do not interfere with normal University operations, and do not create a disturbance. Public speech occurring in contexts other than normal traversing of public sidewalks and streets and common areas by individuals and groups not affiliated with the University is subject to the following regulations regarding time, place, and manner:
- Public Speech Zones: The following locations shall be deemed public speech zones:
- Zone A
- Zone B
- Calendar: Individuals may speak on campus once per week in the assigned public speech zones.
- Length: Speeches may last for up to two hours. The speeches shall be deemed to have begun at the time and date indicated on the application.
General Operating Procedures
Application and Approval
Application to utilize public forum areas must be received and approved at least 72 hours in advance (three business days, excluding weekends, holidays, and closures) through the dean of student services to ensure adequate review. Persons or groups wishing to utilize public forum areas are strongly urged to make application seven to ten days prior to the desired event. The application must occur on the prescribed form (available through the Office of Student Student Services) and must contain the date and starting time of the proposed activity, the name and appropriate contact information (address, telephone number, email address, etc.) of the reserving party, identification of the specific proposed activity (public speech, public demonstration, political campaign, literature distribution), and signature of the person making application. The University may deny requests for use of public forum areas if the event is deemed to require substantial planning and preparation beyond what can reasonably be accomplished within 72 hours in light of normal daily operations of the campus. Such determinations will be made in accordance with content-and viewpoint-neutral guidelines.
However, the University recognizes that such advance arrangements are not always possible. Students may use publicly available outdoor areas of the campus for spontaneous protests, demonstrations, and similar activity, so long as such use does not necessitate coordination or further planning on the part of the University, and the activity attracts fewer than 100 attendees.
Cancellation of reservations of public forum areas must occur in advance of the event start time. Events not properly canceled shall be deemed to have occurred at the date and time indicated on the original application.
Due to the relatively small and intimate nature of the campus, it is not unusual for multiple events to occur in close proximity to one another, particularly in central areas such as the campus Quadrangle, Student Union complex, and the athletics complex. Persons reserving public forum areas do so with the understanding that previously scheduled events and activities of the University may be ongoing in close proximity to public forum zones even during periods when such areas are reserved for use by individuals and groups not affiliated with the University.
Continuity of University Operations
The University’s primary educational objectives relate to teaching, research, public service, and student success. Individuals and groups not affiliated with the University who exercise their right to utilize the public forum will conduct their activities in a manner that complements the University’s educational mission, does not interfere with normal operations, and that conforms to University regulations regarding time, place, and manner. Threats to passersby, impeding or blocking the flow of pedestrian or vehicular traffic, committing acts leading to unsafe and/or unhealthy conditions, and posting or affixing signs or materials on walls, windows, grounds, doors, trees, sidewalks, benches, poles, fixtures, or any other equipment or surface, except where specifically authorized, or violations of time, place, and manner restrictions are strictly prohibited and will result in cessation of public forum activities by appropriate University authorities.
Hours of Operation
Authorized use of the public forum by individuals and groups not affiliated with the University is permitted only between dawn and dusk during periods of normal University operations (Monday through Friday, excluding holidays and closures).
The University does not provide alternative locations for public forum events interrupted by inclement weather, but does provide for properly canceled events to be rescheduled at a later date according to the same procedure under which the original event date was booked.
Literature (flyers, brochures, information sheets, push cards) may be made available to interested persons during public forum activities. Forcing literature onto observers or passersby or affixing literature to automobiles, trees, grounds, fixtures, or other stationary objects on the campus shall constitute a violation of University regulations and will result in cessation of the public forum activity by appropriate University authorities.
Maintenance and Preservation of the Physical Environment
Persons utilizing the public forum will conduct their activities in a manner that does not deface, litter, or otherwise damage the physical environment of the campus. Individuals and groups responsible for littering, vandalizing, defacing, or otherwise damaging University property are subject to restitution and criminal prosecution.
Official University Events
Events sponsored by the University and auxiliary groups officially recognized by the University may occasionally render designated public forum areas temporarily unavailable for use by persons and groups unaffiliated with the University. In circumstances where a public forum area is reserved in advance of the University’s need for such space, the University may request the reserving party consider utilizing an alternate venue mutually agreeable to the reserving party and the University. In such cases where a mutually agreeable alternate venue is not available, the reserving party’s use of the public forum area will be honored.
Activities that incite illegal conduct and/or disrupt University operations are strictly prohibited at all times.
Penalties for Non-Compliance with University Regulations
Individuals and groups not affiliated with the University are subject to civil law as well as University regulations regarding personal conduct for employees and students. Individuals and groups not complying with University regulations regarding use of the public forum, or any other policy of the University, are subject to immediate removal from the campus, may be barred from future access to the campus, and may be charged for criminal acts, where appropriate.
Physical Descriptions of Zones
- Zone A: The grassy lawn area surrounded by pavement on all sides, located in the southeast section of the Quad between the Student Union Annex and the east-west sidewalk, east of center, of the Quad. This area consists of approximately 14,000 square feet and has, as its centerpiece, a permanent concrete multipurpose stage and performance structure that is included as a part of the zone available for public forum use.
- Zone B: The grassy lawn area, surrounded by pavement or building walls on all sides, located south of the Holbrook Student Services building between the Office of University Marketing and Licensing and Beauregard Drive. This area consists of approximately 3,000 square feet.
- Zone C: The grassy area outside of the football stadium complex bordered by pavement (Blue & Gold Drive, East Stadium Drive, West Stadium Drive, and Cowboy Drive). This area exceeds 15,000 square feet. This area does not include paved pedestrian and vehicular thoroughfares leading into ticket and service areas of the stadium.
- Zone D: The common atrium area of the ground level floor of the Student Union Annex. This area consists of approximately 3,300 square feet.
Students should refer to the University’s Placement of Printed Materials on Campus Policy for information about posting bills.
Applicants for use of the public forum are responsible for removal of personal effects and literature and restoration of the physical environment of the premises at the conclusion of the activity.
Public Address and Sound Amplification Systems
Use of sound amplification systems or devices (artificial, electronic, instrumental, or otherwise) of any type is strictly prohibited on University property except where authorized by appropriate administrative authorities for University-sponsored events only.
The University Police chief is the exclusive provider of security for events and activities occurring on University property and is the sole authority for determining need and quantity of officers required for an event. The University Police chief will consider the following content- and viewpoint-neutral guidelines when evaluating security for all events:
- Whether the event is limited to members of the campus community or is open to the public;
- The proposed location of the event;
- The anticipated number of attendees;
- The time of day that the event is taking place;
- The date and day of the week of the event;
- The proximity of the event to other activities or locations that may interfere, obstruct, or lessen the effectiveness of the security measures being implemented;
- The resources necessary to secure the event;
- The anticipated weather conditions;
- The anticipated duration of the event; and
- Any similar considerations relevant to the assessment of security needs.
Contact University Police at (337) 475-5711 for general information regarding rates and terms for event security.
Individuals or groups not affiliated with the University who, whether as active participants or as spectators, participate in an unauthorized activity, create a substantial and material disruption, cause destruction of University property or the personal property of others, shall be subject to removal, arrest, prosecution, and restitution and may face University disciplinary proceedings, if applicable.
Civility and Personal Conduct
Information regarding procedures whereby a person aggrieved by a violation of the University’s Public Forum Policy may seek relief through the Civility and Personal Conduct Policy.
Application for Use of Public Forum
Contact the Dean of Student Services in the Office of Student Services to obtain a copy of this application:
New Ranch, Office 102
4300 Jefferson Davis Drive
PO Box 92535
This policy is distributed via the University Policies webpage.