Dissent and Demonstrations Policy

Policy Title Dissent and Demonstrations Policy
Policy Category Operational Policies
Policy Approval Date December 22, 2020
Responsible Office Office of the Provost
Related Policies Principles of Open Expression; Posting Policy
Policies Superseded Student Handbook (Assemblies and Demonstrations)
Frequency of Review Three (3) Years
Date of Next Review December 22, 2023
Date of Revision  

I. Scope

This Policy applies to students, faculty, staff, volunteers, Organizations, alumni, visitors, and guests of the University while on University Property or at University-Sponsored Events. In support of the University’s Principles of Open Expression, this Policy sets out expectations for University community members related to Dissent and Demonstrations. All capitalized terms contained in this Policy are defined in Section IV below.

II. Policy Statement

The purpose of this Policy is to set expectations regarding Dissent and Demonstrations while on University Property or at University-Sponsored Events. The Policy is set forth to ensure that individuals within the Scope of the Policy understand expectations regarding Dissent and Demonstrations. The University affirms, fosters, and encourages the opportunity for Dissent as a natural dynamic within a thriving community, while recognizing that with the right to Dissent and to demonstrate also comes important responsibilities.

III. Policy

Protecting the free exchange of ideas in conjunction with safety are top priorities for the University. Most campus exercises of Dissent and Demonstrations tend to be peaceful and non-disruptive. If an individual or group is planning a Demonstration, the University advises all parties to correspond and meet with the Director of Public Safety, who will contact the Office of Student Affairs, the Office of Human Resources, and/or the Office of the Provost, as appropriate, prior to the Demonstration. The purpose of such communications and/or meetings is to ensure that all parties have an understanding of acceptable Demonstrations within this Policy’s guidelines.

Efforts will be made to ensure that individuals who are members of the University community have the ability to demonstrate. That said, a Demonstration may be stopped if one or more of the following conditions exist (hereinafter “Disruptive Conditions”):

  • Actual, or threat of, physical harm to persons;
  • Interference with day-to-day operations of the University;
  • Blocked access to offices, buildings, or other University facilities;
  • Actual, or threat of, damage to University facilities; and/or
  • Bias-Related Speech against an individual or group.

In the event that a Demonstration is asked to cease, an appropriate University representative will provide the participants with a reasonable timetable to desist and advise participants that failure to comply may result in disciplinary action.

The University has the responsibility to ensure that members of the community have the right to engage in the free exchange of ideas and that other members have the right to conduct their daily business without unreasonable disruption. These goals may sometimes be in conflict. In each case, the University will attempt to ensure both responsibilities are met. Below is a list of items to consider if an individual or group of University community members are planning a Demonstration. This list should not be considered exhaustive. Again, it is recommended that individuals meet with the Director of Public Safety who will contact the Office of Student Affairs, the Office of Human Resources, or the Office of the Provost, as appropriate, prior to conducting a Demonstration.

  1. When conducting a Demonstration, individuals will likely be gathered in front of an office, event space, or University facility. Individuals cannot restrict access to those spaces or compromise the safety of individuals entering or exiting that space. University personnel will attempt to work with demonstrators to ensure that access is provided to that space, while their voices are also being heard.
  2. Demonstrations can sometimes be loud. If the Demonstration’s volume unreasonably interferes with or impedes upon the ability of a professor to teach their course or for an individual or group to conduct their business within the confines of a classroom, office space, meeting space, or similar, the demonstrators will first be asked to lower the volume of their Demonstration or move to a different location. If conditions persist that unreasonably interfere with or impede upon individuals or groups conducting their University business, this behavior will be considered to have created a Disruptive Condition, and appropriate action may be taken as outlined in the “Enforcement” section of this Policy.
  3. Walk-outs are a common form of Demonstration. Individuals who wish to participate in a walk-out should be aware that there may be consequences for this choice of Demonstration including, but not limited to, the consequences that attach to unexcused absences from class (for students) or work (for employees). You may wish to consult with your professor or supervisor prior to deciding to participate in a walk-out.


Pamphleting or the distribution of literature is acceptable and will not be hindered when it is non-disruptive and it does not violate the University’s Non-Discrimination and Non-Harassment Policy or other University policy. Those distributing such literature must not create Disruptive Conditions, including impeding access to the meeting or event and/or harassing people wishing to attend or not to attend. Non-disruptive distribution of literature before, during, or after a Demonstration is acceptable and will not be hindered.

Silent Demonstrations

Non-disruptive silent Demonstrations such as the displaying of signs or symbols, the wearing of expressive clothing or insignia, standing, gesturing, or otherwise protesting noiselessly is acceptable and will not be hindered unless the ability of others in the audience to see or hear is impeded. For this reason, the display of large signs or banners should be confined to the back of the meeting or event space where the Demonstration is held. For safety reasons, signs and banners should not be affixed to sticks or other sharp or hard objects. If such behavior occurs during a class, the professor has the right to ask the student to desist or leave or refer the student for possible discipline.


The range of consequences for creating or contributing to Disruptive Conditions or failing to desist from a Demonstration when so instructed will depend on the specific conduct at issue in each individual case, and can range from a conversation with an appropriate University official regarding the concerns related to the conduct to commencement of a formal disciplinary or other appropriate conduct process, which can result in sanctions up to and including expulsion, termination, and/or other separation from the University.

In the event of a peaceful, non-disruptive Demonstration, the situation will be monitored by Public Safety and University officials as appropriate to ensure that the Demonstration remains so. Should the situation change and any Disruptive Conditions exist, the following procedures should be followed:

  • Demonstrators will be asked to terminate the conduct creating a Disruptive Condition by the Director of Public Safety or another appropriate University official.
  • If the Disruptive Condition persists, the Director of Public Safety or another appropriate University official will ask the participants to cease the Demonstration. If participants fail to comply, they could face disciplinary action, as described above.
  • After consultation with the Director of Public Safety and other appropriate University officials, law enforcement may be contacted if necessary to resolve Disruptive Conditions or disperse a Demonstration that has been instructed to cease.
  • Even if a particular Demonstration is not requested to desist, any violation of this or any other policy may prompt appropriate disciplinary action. Refer to the Student Handbook, Faculty Handbook, or, for staff, the Progressive Discipline Policy, regarding disciplinary processes.

V. Definitions

Bias-Related Speech is conduct that violates the University’s Non-Discrimination and Non-Harassment Policy (e.g. conduct which would constitute what that Policy defines as Discrimination, Harassment, a Bias Incident, or Retaliation).

Demonstration is the presence of one or more persons on University Property or at a University-Sponsored Event with the intent to express a particular point of view in a manner that attracts attention, as in protests, assemblies, rallies, sit-ins, vigils, or similar forms of expression.

Dissent is having an opinion that is different from a previously, commonly, or officially held position. For the purposes of this Policy, Dissent refers to coordinated expressions of Dissent, not Dissent as part of the academic process. Please refer to the Principles of Open Expression for a more robust understanding of the role Dissent plays in the academic process.

An Organization is an association, club, corporation, order, service, society, social or similar group, whose members are primarily students or alumni of the University, or a national or international organization with which such an Organization is affiliated. Organization includes sports teams such as athletics, intramural, and recreation teams.

University refers to Arcadia University, its colleges, schools, affiliates, divisions and subsidiaries.

University Property includes, without limitation, all University-owned or leased buildings and surrounding areas such as sidewalks, walkways, driveways, plazas, parking lots, and garages under the University’s ownership or control, excluding public rights of way. This includes the Glenside and Christiana campuses, as well as any other University facilities in the United States.

University-Sponsored Events specifically for the purposes of this Policy are events held on University-owned, leased, or rented property when a specific department, recognized student Organization, or University entity sponsors the event.

VI. Effective Date

This Policy is effective on the date that it is signed by the President

VII. Date of Approval

December 22, 2020