Political Activity, Protests, and Demonstrations

Policy number: 9.4

Policy section: Police & Public Safety

Revised Date: December 14, 2020


1.  Definitions

Definitions of capitalized terms are set forth in Appendix A.

2.  Policy Statement

  1. The University is an educational institution dedicated for the specific purpose of furthering its teaching, research, and service missions. Access to the campus and its buildings and other improvements is limited to those persons with the specific purpose of furthering the institution’s missions. Therefore, all persons on University property must abide by all applicable policies and procedures of the University.
  2. The purpose of this policy is to define certain limitations which preserve the University's tax-exempt status.  More specifically, the purpose of this policy is to preserve, in fact and appearance, the University's non-partisan, independent, tax-exempt status.  Accordingly, the University must abide by federal and state laws that prohibit the use of University facilities, services or personnel to promote or support individuals or organizations campaigning for public office; and laws that prohibit the University (or any of its related entities) from contributing to or supporting political candidates or parties. Therefore, no University resources may be used for political purposes, except to the extent approved by the Office of Legal Affairs. These restrictions on political activity do not apply to faculty or staff acting solely in an individual capacity on his/her own time and utilizing his/her own resources.
  3. The University respects the right of all members of the academic community to explore and to discuss questions which interest them, to express opinions publicly and privately, and to join together to demonstrate their concern by orderly means. The University also respects the right of all members of the academic community to be free from harassment. It is the policy of the University to protect the right of voluntary assembly, to make appropriate facilities available for peaceful assembly, welcome guest speakers, and to protect the exercise of these rights from disruption or interference. The rights to protest and demonstrate through such means as marches, rally, blockades, sit-ins, assembly, speeches, distribution of written materials, or other forms of expressive activities comes with the responsibility not to abuse or violate the civil and property rights of others or to interfere in the conduct of University business. Reasonable limitations may be placed on the time, place, and manner of such Protest and Demonstration activities in order to serve the interest of health and safety, prevent disruption of the educational process, and protect against the infringement of the rights of others.

3.  Guidelines for Political, Campaign, and Lobbying Activity

  1. Prohibited Political Activity.  No person may use University resources to engage in any Political Activity in support  of or opposition to a political cause or to a candidate for elective public office (including giving or receiving funds or endorsements).
    1. Use of Name.  The name of the University (including use of the University seal, logos, or other identifiable marks or institutional affiliation)  or of any of its schools, departments, or institutions may not be used in any manner intended to influence political campaigns.
    2. Use of Title.  The University title of a faculty or staff member or other person may be used only for identification and must be accompanied by a statement that the person is speaking as an individual and not as a representative of the University.
    3.  Use of Personnel.  Faculty or staff may not, as part of his or her job, be asked to perform tasks in any way related to Prohibited Political Activity.
    4. Use of Services and Resources.  University services such as campus mail; equipment such as copy machines, computer resources, and telephones; and supplies may not be used for political activity.
    5. Use of Work Time.  Faculty and staff members may not use regularly scheduled work time of political activity.
    6. Use of SMU Technology. SMU Zoom and any other University accounts, software, or infrastructure may not be used for convening or attending political meetings, events or fundraisers.
  2. Permissible Political Activity.  Because the University encourages freedom of expression, political activity that does not reasonably imply University involvement or identification may be undertaken so long as regular University procedures are followed, including those for use of facilities.  More specifically, this policy does not forbid faculty or staff from running as a candidate for office or holding political office, joining with others in support of candidates for office or in furtherance of political causes.  Faculty and staff who expect to participate in political activity that could cause conflict with their University duties are expected to discuss the matter promptly with the appropriate dean or department head and the Vice President for Legal Affairs and Governmental Relations.  The objective of the discussion is a complete understanding and, if necessary, agreement as to a plan for changes of duties, use of paid leave, or other administrative actions sufficient to protect the University's interests.  There is no restriction on discussion of political issues or teaching of political techniques.  Academic endeavors that address public policy issues are in no way prohibited or constrained.
  3. Political Campaign Activities.  The University is legally prohibited from endorsing or opposing candidates for political office or making any contribution of money, goods, or services to candidates.  It is important, therefore, that no person inadvertently cause the University to make such a contribution.  No person can implicitly or explicitly require any faculty or staff member to make a political contribution.
  4. Lobbying.  No person may lobby on behalf of the University without specific authorization from the President or Vice President for Legal Affairs and Governmental Relations.  The University must report certain political activities.  Therefore, any faculty or staff member engaging in Permissible Political Activities on behalf of the University should discuss the relevant activities in advance with the Vice President for Legal Affairs and Governmental Relations.
  5. Giving of Gifts to Public Officials and Staff.  Almost all jurisdictions have strict rules on the extent to which gifts may be given to public officials (both elected and non-elected officials and, often, staff).  In some cases, gifts and honoraria are prohibited; in others they are limited; and in most cases they are subject to detailed disclosure.  Meals, travel, and entertainment are the most common types of gifts, but gift rules can also apply in cases where public officials attend a reception  or receive tickets to sporting or other events.  As a non-profit  organization,  the University generally does not give gifts to public officials and, in those limited cases where it does give gifts, it must do so in accordance with all applicable laws and regulations.  Therefore, any faculty or staff member who, on behalf of the University, wishes to make a gift to a public  official must receive prior approval from the President or Vice President for Development and External Affairs before making such a gift.

4.  Protests and Demonstrations

Peaceful Protests or Demonstrations may take place on the University campus provided that:

  1. The Protest & Demonstration Request Form, available online from the University Police Department, should be completed three workdays prior to the Protest or Demonstration. The form must be approved by the University Police Department which may consult with the offices of Student Affairs, the Office of Risk Management, Public Affairs, and Facility Services;
  2. The normal function of the University must not be disrupted;
  3. Respect for the rights of others and University property must be maintained;
  4. Health and safety of protestors or demonstrators, University personnel, and the general public must not be compromised;
  5. Persons or organizations responsible for a Demonstration or other expressive event must remove all resulting signs and litter from the area at the conclusion of the event.

5.  Off-Campus Person or Entity

Any off-campus person or entity not affiliated with the University wishing to hold a Protest or Demonstration on the SMU campus must be sponsored by an SMU department (i.e., academic department, institute, center or other academic or staff program) or chartered student organization. Sponsoring departments or organizations, individual students, faculty, and staff shall commit to the following:

  1. Provision of a contact person for the event;
  2. Discussion and coordination of financial responsibility for event-related expenses, which may include, but are not limited to, sanitation, security, clean-up, parking, and liability insurance;
  3. Compliance with all SMU policies and procedures;
  4. Assurance that the event is consistent with the mission and purpose of the department or organization;
  5. Confirmation of sponsorship in writing by the department or organization through an authorized signature on the Protest & Demonstration Request Form.

6.  Rules and Procedures

  1. All protestors and demonstrators including visitors or non-University persons must abide by all applicable state and federal laws and University policies, rules and regulations.
  2. Protests or Demonstrations may be conducted only between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 11:00 p.m. No overnight Protest or Demonstration will be allowed at the University.
  3. The University will determine the location of the approved Protest or Demonstration. No structures of any sort may be erected without the express written consent of the Office of Risk Management.
  4. The Dallas Hall lawn may be reserved for Lawn Displays by a University department or registered student organization. No displays are allowed on Dallas Hall steps, sidewalks, fountain or trees on the Dallas Hall lawn. The northern half of Dallas Hall lawn (between the sidewalks south of Dallas Hall and the Kennemer fountain) is available by reservation for a period of one 24-hour day, including set up and tear down time. The southern half of Dallas Hall lawn (between the Kennemer fountain and the Dedman College sign) is available by reservation for a period of up to three days, including set up and tear down time. Display items (including any accompanying text or artwork) must be self-supporting and not interfere with the flow of pedestrian traffic. Reservations must be made ten (10) days in advance on the Outdoor Event Reservation Form. Decisions are made on a first come, first served basis in a content-neutral manner. Reservation requests will be responded to in five (5) business days. The northern and southern halves of Dallas Hall lawn may not be concurrently reserved.
  5. The safety and welfare of the University community are of paramount importance. Therefore, Protests and Demonstrations are subject to all applicable University policies and procedures including University Policy 9.5, Weapons, and the following requirements:
    1. It is unauthorized for any persons to stage, present, or conduct any Protest or Demonstration without first having obtained a permit as required;
    2. It is unauthorized for any person to participate in a Protest or Demonstration for which the person knows that a permit has been revoked or not granted;
    3. It is unauthorized for any person to continue to participate in a Protest or Demonstration after being informed by a law enforcement officer or University official that the permit for the event has been revoked or not granted;
    4. It is unauthorized for any person in charge of, or responsible for, the conduct of a duly-permitted Protest or Demonstration to fail to comply with any condition of the permit or this policy;
    5. It is unauthorized for any person who participates in any Protest or Demonstration activity to carry or possess any length of lumber, wood, or other non-metallic material, for purposes of displaying a sign, poster, plaque or notice, unless such material is rounded on the ends, is one and one-fourth inch (1¼") or less in thickness, and is two inches (2") or less in width;
    6. It is unauthorized for any person who participates in any Protest or Demonstration activity to carry or possess any length of metal for purposes of displaying a sign, poster, plaque or notice;
    7. It is unauthorized for any person to carry any sign, poster, plaque, or notice, whether mounted on a length of material as set forth in subsections (v.) and (vi.) immediately above, unless such sign, poster, plaque or notice is constructed or made of cloth, paper, or cardboard material.
    8. It is unauthorized for any person who participates in any Protest or Demonstration activity to carry or possess any torch, burning stick, or similar object with a flammable or combustible substance whether or not the object includes an open flame. This prohibition does not include candles six (6”) inches in height or less.
    9. It is unauthorized for any person who participates in any Protest or Demonstration activity to wear or employ body armor with the intent to incite conflict and violence. This prohibition shall include bulletproof vests, riot or combat helmets, riot or combat shields, and all other materials which may indicate a willingness and intention to engage in violent conflict. It is unauthorized for any person who participates in any Protest or Demonstration activity to wear any type of covering over their face, such as a hood, mask, or other facial coverage inhibiting full facial recognition with the intent to intimidate, threaten, abuse, or harass any other person. This prohibition is not intended to exclude hoods, masks, or facial coverage used in relation to religious beliefs, or incidental to amusement, entertainment, holiday events, protection from weather, or for prescribed medical purposes.
    10. It is unauthorized for a Protest or Demonstration to impede ingress or egress from University facilities or events.
    11. It is unauthorized to interfere with the educational mission through excessive noise in close proximity to classrooms, libraries, and labs.
    12. Chalking or other types of painting or tagging are not permitted on the SMU campus.

7.  Revocation of Permit

The University may revoke a Protest or Demonstration permit immediately upon violation of the conditions or standards for issuance as set forth in this policy, or when an emergency arises having an immediate and adverse effect upon the welfare and safety of persons or property or the normal conduct of University business. Those who engage in activities such as making threats of violence toward specific individuals, disturbing the peace, obstructing or disrupting campus functions, or behavior that threatens health and safety may be prosecuted and/ or disciplined.

8.  Consequences for Violation of this Policy

If any faculty or staff of SMU violates the terms of this policy, such individual may be subject to disciplinary action. Students who violate this policy may be subject to referral to the Office of Student conduct and Community Standards. Individuals and organizations may be charged for repair or cleaning of damaged surfaces.

9.  Questions

Any questions or appeals of decisions regarding permits should be directed to the SMU Vice President for Business and Finance, who shall collaborate as necessary with the Provost, Vice President for Student Affairs or other University administrators.

10.  Related Policies

  1. University Policy 1.3, Conflict of Interest
  2. University Policy 1.5, Use of University Name
  3. University Policy 5.9, Use of SMU Logos, Wordmarks and Brand Statements
  4. University Policy 6.4, Use of University Facilities by Non-University Individuals and Organizations
  5. University Policy 7.23, Personal Conduct
  6. University Policy 8.1, Acceptable Use

Appendix A: Definitions

“Demonstration” refers to the planned or spontaneous action by a group or individual taken to effect a protest

“Harassment” refers to engaging in acts, whether physical, psychological, verbal, written or digital-based, which are beyond the bounds of protected free speech, and directed at a specific individual or group, and likely to cause an immediate breach of the peace; conduct which threatens the mental health, physical health or security of any person or persons including stalking, intimidation, or threat that unreasonably impairs the security or privacy of another member of the University community.

“Lawn Display” refers to any type of visual recognition or commemoration of an event or issue.

"Lobbying" refers to any attempt to influence the action of any legislative body (e.g. Congress, State Legislatures, City Councils and their staffs) or any federal, state, or local administrative agency.

"Political Activity" refers to, among other things, solicitation of campaign contributions, running for political office, service in furtherance of candidates for political office, political parties and political action committees, and advocating a particular position on a referendum or ballot measure.

“Protest” refers to an expression of opinion, by words or by actions, to particular events, policies or situations

“The Dallas Hall lawn” refers to the area south of Dallas Hall and north of the Dedman College sign between Boaz Lane and Robert S. Hyer Lane but does not include the Dallas Hall steps, sidewalks, fountain, or trees.


Revised: December 14, 2020

Adopted: October 2, 2017