Free Speech

As a public university, EWU is required to comply with the First Amendment's protection of free speech.  This includes the right to protest on public property, which includes the university. Private universities are not subject to these same constraints.

Additionally, EWU believes, "active participation in dialogue and expression is a vital part of higher education. Listening to and engaging with various viewpoints transforms students into informed citizens. Thus, the university believes freedom of expression is indispensable and is committed to respecting and promoting first amendment rights."

WAC 172-141-010

What kind of speech is NOT protected?

  • Obscene material
  • Defamation or libelous material
  • Incitement of imminent lawlessness including direct threats, fighting words, and speech or conduct that causes a material and substantial disruption of university activities.
  • Speech that elevates to civil disobedience—the refusal to obey laws by violating them.

WAC 172-141-030

Hate Speech

At the federal level, hate crime laws include crimes committed on the basis of the victim’s perceived or actual race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability.

Under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, people cannot be prosecuted for expressing their beliefs. People may be offended or upset about beliefs that are untrue, harmful, or based upon false stereotypes, but offensive speech itself is not a crime.

Fighting Hate

Your Free Speech is Powerful Too.

 Fight hate speech with more free speech, better speech, and with more accurate speech. Use your right to free expression to condemn hate speech and other ignorant speech.

Connect with Student Organizations
Reach out to those organizations you believe would have an interest in the topic. Having many groups with one voice strengthens your position and influence. 

Organize a teach-in, lecture, panel, or discussion with faculty or students who have experience or expertise on the topic. 

Show Support and Allyship
Think about what can be done before, during, and after a harmful event to show support to your peers who may be affected.  

Organize a demonstration to illustrate your opposition to the point of view being presented by the other group. Use t-shirts, flyers, picket signs to share your message. 

Stand Up and Turn Around
Another option is to force the speaker to speak to your back. Most speakers need to feed off the audience and the controversy they create. By turning your back you remain present but still send a message of opposition. Be sure to not infringe on others' movement or do anything that can escalate to a physical conflict. 

A very powerful tool to send a message of opposition is to deny a speaker and/or event your attendance. Controversial speakers are usually trained to provoke their audience and if the audience does not exist it creates a challenging situation for the speaker and/or organizers to create the dissension they desire. 

Support Resources