Lately, I’ve been considering going to local colleges and universities in Charlotte to hand out gospel tracts, open-air preach and invite students to my church. While the public university I attended in Virginia twenty years ago was very open to having street preaching and canvasing on campus, times have changed, and religious expression has been steadily regulated and suppressed throughout the country.
So, what are the free speech policies on college campuses today? Are all public institutions for higher learning required to follow the same rules?
Below are the free speech policies of three state-funded schools in the Charlotte area. Generally speaking, the more rules there are, the less free speech there is on campus (when speech is relegated to specific zones, times, etc.).
So, for future reference, here are the evangelism-relevant policies of three universities/colleges close to where I live, work and worship in Charlotte, NC and Rock Hill, SC…
I. Distribution of Pamphlets and Written Materials
Both Affiliated and Non-Affiliated Groups may distribute written materials in any open, exterior campus space or in the Cone Center Main Entrance Lobby. When charitable donations are to be accepted at the time such written materials are distributed, the provisions of Section II of this Policy shall apply. In expressing a policy of open distribution of written materials, the University does not assume any obligation or responsibility for the content of the materials distributed. Furthermore, the University reminds any organization distributing written materials to be aware of the current laws concerning defamation, obscenity, fair labor practices, defacement or destruction of State property, and other applicable laws.
(University Policy: 601.9)
Central Piedmont Community College
III. Speech and Assembly for Non-College-Affiliated Individuals and Groups
CPCC places reasonable restrictions on the time, place, and manner in which non-College-affiliated individuals and groups may exercise rights of free speech, petition, and peaceable assembly on College property.
The College has designated certain areas for free speech, outdoor public assemblies, and distribution/petitioning and requires non-College-affiliated individuals and groups, without regard to the content of their activities, to confine such activities to these areas. The College reserves the right to relocate any assembly to ensure that the activity does not interfere with the normal operation of the College.
IV. Registration and Regulations
Participants exercising their rights of free speech, petition, and peaceable assembly must follow these regulations:
A. Registration: Non-College-affiliated individuals and groups must register with the Student Life Office at least 3 business days, but no more than 30 business days, in advance by completing the Registration for Use of Designated Area form. The Student Life Office will notify Campus Security, the Campus Dean, and the Public Information Officer regarding any registration. A separate registration form is required for each day and site. Upon request of a College official, non-affiliated individuals and groups will be required to provide proof of registration for use of the designated area. College students, staff, faculty, and affiliated groups who have chosen not to register must be able to show current and valid College identification.
B. Time Restrictions: The designated areas are available for use between 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. on Mondays through Fridays when the College’s general curriculum classes are in session.
E. The Right to Dissent: The right to dissent is the complement of the right to speak, but these rights need not occupy the same forum at the same time. A speaker is entitled to communicate his or her message to the audience during his or her allotted time, and the audience is entitled to hear the message and see the speaker during that time. A dissenter must not substantially interfere with the speaker’s ability to communicate or the audience’s ability to hear and see the speaker. Likewise, the audience must respect the right to dissent.
F. No Public Address System: Use of public address systems or amplified sound will not be permitted.
G. Dissemination or Display of Printed Material: Participants may petition and/or distribute pamphlets, booklets, brochures, and other forms of printed material within designated areas on the condition that such material is designed for informational (not commercial) purposes. Any parties interested in pursuing commercial activity must be in compliance with Policy 6.33. The participants must provide a receptacle for the disposal of such materials. The College does not assume any obligation or liability for the content of such distributed material. Any signs used may not be larger than three feet by four feet in size. Signs must either be held by participants or be freestanding signs that do not stick into the ground. No signs may be mounted on buildings, trees, or other College property.
Winthrop University (Rock Hill, SC)
As a state university, Winthrop also acknowledges the right of individuals and groups who are not affiliated with the University to peacefully assemble on campus. These individuals and groups may assemble on the Campus Green B (closest to the Amphitheatre) and the Amphitheatre and MUST notify the Assistant Dean of Students (803.323.4503) at least two days prior to assembling. Any and all sound equipment used must be cleared through the University.
(2017-2018 Student Handbook)