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Freedom of Expression

Monday, March 2, 2020

Dear students,

Like all Americans, every member of the VCU community has the fundamental and unalienable right to free speech. This right is true even when we find that speech to be abhorrent and antithetical to our core values as a university. Every member of our community should feel safe to express themselves in ways they see fit in accordance with their First Amendment rights. The response to free speech is always more free speech, never threats or acts of violence.

VCU is a very diverse community with a host of differing viewpoints reflecting each of our personal lenses through which we see, and experience, the world. This diversity of viewpoint and opinion is a tremendous asset to our community. Our hope is that you engage in conversations with others who share similar and dissimilar perspectives. The university is committed to fostering a climate which encourages civil and spirited discourse through classes, events, and the public forum.

VCU is also obligated, as a public university, to ensure a strong commitment to the First Amendment and Virginia law. The First Amendment prohibits prior restraint on speech and taking adverse action against individuals or groups, whether affiliated with the university or not, based on the viewpoints of that speech. Expressive activities, no matter how graphic, appalling, or insensitive they may be to others, are protected speech at a public institution of higher education such as VCU. This freedom of speech also encompasses the rights of those who present a differing viewpoint.

Our Reservation and Use of Space policy clarifies how expressive activities occur at VCU. A list of Frequently Asked Questions can assist with questions that we have been asked previously, including but not limited to those pertaining to time, place, manner, costs, and major events. We also have a team of staff members through the Division of Student Affairs who are available to consult and are often in attendance when expressive activities occur on campus. The Dean of Students office is available throughout the year to meet with students who have specific questions or concerns and can be reached at vcudean@vcu.edu or 804-828-8940.

As a public university, we will always uphold the constitutional rights of our community, but hold tight to our core values of decency, respect, diversity, and inclusion. We will ensure that all members of our community feel welcome, safe, supported, and able to succeed in the context of our mission.

Thank you for your support of expressive activity on our campus and your willingness to engage in productive civil discourse with others.

Sincerely,

Charles Klink, Ph.D.
Senior Vice Provost
Division of Student Affairs