Free Speech

SRJC Solicitation/Free Expression Guidelines SRJC Santa Rosa (PDF - 139 kbytes)
SRJC Solicitation/Free Expression Guidelines SRJC Petaluma (PDF - 102 kbytes)
Free Speech Handout SRJC Santa Rosa (PDF - 121 kbytes)
​Free Speech Handout, SRJC Petaluma (PDF - 140 kbytes)


The courts have consistently held that "the vigilant protection of constitutional freedoms is nowhere more vital than in the community of American schools of higher learning." The core principles of the First Amendment "acquire a special significance in the university setting, where the free and unfettered interplay of competing views is essential to the institution's educational mission."

The First Amendment does not just protect speech that is civil and polite. Annoying speech is usually protected as well since discomfort and unpleasantness often accompany an unpopular viewpoint. Protesters whose speech is "merely annoying" to bystanders must be tolerated. Bystanders who find the protester's speech offensive are expected to avert their eyes or ears, leave the public forum, or engage in counter-speech.


Restrictions on expression in a public forum, including reasonable time, place or manner restrictions, must be (1) content-neutral, (2) narrowly tailored to serve an important government interest, and (3) leave open ample alternative channels for the communication of the message.

Plazas and sidewalks at a publicly-supported college campus constitute public forums where free speech may occur. The following Santa Rosa campus locations have been designated as the most effective free speech areas, causing limited disruption to classes and offices: BERTOLINI QUAD, located south of the Bertolini Student Center and between the Doyle Library and Pioneer Hall; HYDE PARK GREENSPACE, located on the northern half of the Analy Lawn; DOYLE WALKWAY, located north of Elliot Ave. between Doyle Library and the Bertolini Student Center; SHUHAW QUAD, located between Shuhaw Hall, Bech Hall, Baker Hall and Lark Hall.

The following areas have been designated as free speech zones on the Petaluma Campus: Zone 1: ROTARY PLAZA LAWN "past the lamp post toward Mahoney Library; and Zone 2: ROTARY PLAZA PATIO" adjacent to Mahoney Library.


However, not all speech is protected: speech or expressive conduct that is directed to “inciting or producing imminent lawless action and that is likely to incite or produce such action” is subject to regulation. The Constitution also permits the government to punish “true threats,” which encompass those statements where the speaker means to communicate a serious expression of an intent to commit an act of unlawful violence to a particular individual or group of individuals.

Effective Response Strategies

Those practicing free speech often use language, videos or printed materials intended to attract your interest, engage you in discourse and generate publicity.

  • If you consider the speech offensive, you can choose to ignore the speech completely. Most speakers who use this type of speech will leave campus if they do not have an audience. They want you to stop and engage with them; by doing so, you will likely keep them here longer. If you do choose to engage with the speaker, do so with civility and respect.
  • Do NOT touch any of the speakers using such speech. You risk litigation by doing so.
  • Plan and/or attend an alternative event or activity sponsored by SRJC’s student clubs and organizations. See the office of Student Life & Engagment for more information on planned events/activities.

Can the college prevent speech and materials that are considered offensive from being on campus?

Certain portions of the campus are considered “public forums” where any person can exercise his or her First Amendment rights. Those using such speech, though unpopular and uninvited, are usually acting within their legal rights. In most cases, printed materials or videos with offensive images or language are also protected by the First Amendment.

Policies for SRJC:

  • Sound amplification is generally limited to times and locations where classes or other activities will not be disturbed.
  • Activities which restrict or disturb the routine business of the College are generally prohibited or closely monitored.

For concerns or complaints, contact Student Life & Engagement @ 707.527.4424.