Free speech and challenging conversations program details

Voluntary development opportunities are being offered to complement previously announced required free speech training to support discourse around challenging topics.


Required training

The Board of Regents, State of Iowa, and Iowa’s public universities are committed to supporting the principles of free expression guaranteed by the First Amendment for all members of our campus communities. The first step in creating a campus environment where different viewpoints are welcome is understanding the basic principles of First Amendment rights to free expression.

The Board of Regents and the universities created a 15–20-minute training module to assist campus community members in better understanding the rights to free expression. Per Iowa law, all faculty, staff, and students are expected to complete this training annually. Participation in this training is essential to our continued commitment to providing an educational, living, and working environment that protects the First Amendment rights of all campus community members.

Faculty and staff should go to and select First Amendment Training. They can also access their compliances from HR Self-Service.

Students can access the course by clicking the "Required Training" tile within MyUI or by going to and selecting First Amendment Training.

Expressive activity

Individuals planning on-campus expressive activity, including public demonstrations or protests, are required to follow all policies, procedures, and regulations including those related to established time, place, and manner restrictions. 

Event organizers are encouraged to schedule protests or demonstrations with the University Events Committee (UEC), this includes scheduling the time and place of the protest or demonstration. 

The UEC will provide education and help event organizers prepare for their expressive activity. UEC and Division of Student Life leadership will inform campus stakeholders of scheduled demonstrations. 

Expressive activities may be independent in nature or in response to a scheduled campus event. 

The UEC recommends expressive activity, in response to scheduled events at the Iowa Memorial Union, occur on Hubbard Park. Processes for reserving Hubbard Park and other outdoor spaces, including the UI Pentacrest, and details about campus time, place, and manner restrictions can be found on the Dean of Students policy page.

The university will dedicate appropriate resources when expressive activities occur on campus. The level of resources required will be assessed by members of the Free Speech Leadership Team (FSLT), Campus Safety, and the UEC. Security review processes will be conducted by the UEC, during event planning, in partnership with Campus Safety and the FSLT. 

For expressive activities not scheduled through UEC processes, those spontaneous in nature, a member of the UEC will attempt to communicate with and share campus information among event organizers prior to their activity commencing. 

Participation in Expressive Activity

Individuals have the right to express themselves on campus.

Demonstrators must not: 

  • Block entrances, exits or roadways
  • Create disruptions in buildings or shout down an event presenter
  • Vandalize property, camp, or erect any structure or signs
  • Engage in physical violence or incite others to take violent action
  • Use amplified sound (sound with volume increased by any electronic, mechanical, or motor-powered means) without authorization or outside of the designated times and areas
  • Intimidate, badger, or coerce others into viewing or listening to a message

Disruptive Behavior Response Protocols

Expressive activity should not be disrupted unless one or more of the following activities exist. Disruptive activities include, but are not limited to:

  • Interfering with the academic or administrative operations of the University, including: 
    • Obstructing or blocking access or egress to offices, buildings, or other university facilities
    • Blocking pedestrian or vehicle traffic 
    • Threatening physical violence or harm to persons or property 
    • Damaging property 
    • Engaging in disruptive behavior:
      • Blocking the vision of others
      • Creating noise that interferes with events or programs
      • Shouting down a speaker
      • Misusing laser pointers to distract a speaker
      • Activating alarms for non-emergencies
      • Turning off lights or interfering with utilities
      • Using signs in unauthorized areas:
        • Signs on sticks are not allowed in university buildings
  • Demonstrating or assembling within the interior of any university building or structure, except as specifically authorized. Such authorization may be subject to reasonable conditions imposed to protect the rights and safety of other persons, to minimize disruption to the academic or administrative operations of the university, and to prevent damage to property.
  • Entering or occupying any university room, building, or area of the campus, at any unauthorized time, or engaging in any unauthorized or improper use of any university property, equipment, or facilities.

Any behavior that violates applicable law or university policy may be subject to criminal and/or university disciplinary sanctions.

Immediate Processes and Decision Maker(s) for Confronting Disruptive Behavior 

If any of the above conditions exist, university officials will attempt to engage demonstration or protest organizers as the circumstances allow. Operational decisions and response protocols will be managed by Campus Safety and the University Events Committee (UEC), in consultation with the Free Speech Leadership Team (FSLT). 

The FSLT has been established to provide an efficient, transparent, and timely response to operational decisions related to expressive activity and adherence to the principles of policy and the first amendment. The FSLT is comprised of the:

  • Executive Vice President and Provost
  • Vice President for Legal Affairs and General Counsel
  • Vice President for External Relations 

Non-Violent Expressive Activity, Protests, or Demonstrations 

In the event an expressive activity blocks access to university facilities, is not compliant with established time, place, and manner restrictions, or interferes with the academic or administrative operations of the university, university officials may visit the area and ask the protestors to leave or stop the disruptive activity. 

If protestors persist in disruptive behavior, a directive may be issued by university officials.  

If protestors persist in disruptive behavior after a directive is issued, the space may be cleared by Campus Safety officials. 

Violent Expressive Activity, Protests, or Demonstrations

In the event of violent expressive activity, in which injury to persons or property occurs or appears imminent, Campus Safety officials must be notified immediately of the disturbance or disruption by any member of the public or campus community. Campus Safety officials will respond and contact the FSLT. 

If necessary, the Assistant Vice President for Campus Safety or designee may call for assistance from the Iowa City Police Department and/or other public safety agencies as needed. If assistance is needed with mass transportation, the Assistant Vice President for Campus Safety will call for assistance from Parking and Transportation. 

Failure to comply with federal, state, and local laws or university policy may result in disciplinary action. 

Reporting Process and Action Reports 

The FSLT in consultation with the UEC and Campus Safety will produce an after-action report following the activation of the team for an incident. Any free speech issue or concern may be submitted to the FSLT by completing the appropriate form on the university’s free speech website. 

Curious about University of Iowa-specific policies and expectations of free speech on campus?

What Speech is Protected?

UI's stance on Free Speech

History of Free Speech

When Free Speech is Impacted

Free Speech in the Classroom

Bias vs. Harassment

Using Free Speech to be Inclusive

Inclusive environments with Title IX

The line between citizen and employee

The future of free speech

Promoting Free Speech in the Classroom

Confronting Hurtful Speech

Additional Online Resources