Frequently asked questions


The 86th Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 18 (SB 18), which guarantees that members of the public are free to engage in expressive speech on public university campuses by converting some parts of campuses to traditional public forums instead of limited public forums. It also contains various requirements and prohibitions related to expressive activities on campuses. The main effect of the new law is to allow any person to engage in free speech activities in the common outdoor areas of the state’s public university campuses. It allows universities to continue to regulate the time, place and manner of free speech activities—so long as these rules are content-neutral and applied regardless of a speaker’s viewpoint. The new law requires universities to create disciplinary sanctions for students, student organizations and faculty members who interfere with the free speech activities of others.
The law converts the university’s common outdoor area to traditional public forums and allows anyone — not just students, faculty members or invited guests — to exercise free speech there, as long as their activities are lawful and don’t disrupt the functions of the campus. Not all outdoor spaces on campus are part of the common outdoor area. The university has defined common outdoor area in its rules.
These include the University’s public streets, sidewalks, parks, and similar common outdoor areas. These spaces are generally available for expressive activity by members of the campus community and public at any time when the area is not reserved in advance for an event.  Priority is given to scheduled activities; if you are planning to speak in these areas, we encourage you to contact the Offices of Involvement & Engagement to help avoid any potential scheduling conflicts.
A person or group does not need a reservation for the exercise of expressive activities in the common outdoor area and spontaneous expressive activity may occur in areas that are not in use. However, once a person or group does reserve a certain space in the common outdoor area for expressive activities, it is not available for another person or group’s use or reservation at that time. In addition, when outdoor space is being used, even on a temporary basis, for university business or events, an educational or research function, it is not part of the common outdoor area available for use for others’ expressive activities.

Harassment - Threats, insults, ridicule and personal attacks directed at a person’s sex, race, color, national origin, religion or other personal characteristics; or unwelcome speech of a sexual nature. This must be serious (i.e., persistent, pervasive and severe) to the point of limiting or prohibiting a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from the educational program. The institution cannot censor or punish speech merely because a person or group considers it offensive, obnoxious, or hateful.

True Threats and Fighting Words – Words of intimidation, epithets, ridicule or personal attacks with the intent to produce fear of bodily harm or death in the victim. Fighting words are insults which, “by their very utterance, inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace.” The institution must intervene to protect from fear of physical harm, but not emotional injury.

Defamation (Libel/Slander) – Causing harm or damage the reputation of another person by false statements that hold the victim up to hatred, ridicule or contempt. If the alleged victim is a public figure there are additional levels of malicious intent that must be proved in a case of defamation.

Obscenity – Expression that depicts or describes sexual conduct, as outlined in state law, in a patently offensive way. Rather than offended any individual, it must violate community standards, appeal to prurient interests, and lack literary, artistic, political or scientific value.

Incitement of Imminent Lawless Action – When the speaker intends to provoke illegal action, openly urges or encourages it, and his or her words are likely to result in subsequent commission of a crime. For example, incitement and aiding in the destruction of property (even for the purpose of making a point) or disruption of classes or campus activities is prohibited and may be punished.

Commercial speech or solicitation – Advertising or promoting any product or service for sale (including the use of for-profit logos and trademarks.

Freedom of speech means that all views have a place for expression—even those that others may find offensive, unpleasant, hurtful or wrong. UTA community members who hear words they don’t like are free to offer their own words in response, but they must always respect the rights of all speakers to share their views.
Yes, as long as their activities are lawful and don’t disrupt the functions of the campus. All university rules regarding the time, place and manner of expressive activities—such as limits on amplified sound and prohibitions on sticks and open flames—apply both to members of the UTA community and members of the general public. 
No. The new law applies only to common outdoor areas. The university buildings are for campus community members and invited guests’ use. The outside walls and surfaces of university buildings or structures; walls or surfaces connected to a university building; and spaces dedicated to temporary outdoor banners or exhibits are not part of the common outdoor area so are not available to the public for their use.
Student or faculty/staff organizations and academic and administrative units are permitted to hang banners and display exhibits on campus through a reservation process. This expressive activity is considered part of the university’s educational mission and reserved solely for university community members. The spaces set aside for “temporary banner space” and “temporary exhibit space” are part of the university’s limited public forum that is not available to the general public.