Cal Poly's Commitment

Freedom of expression is a cornerstone of a democratic society and is essential to the educational process.  Universities have a special obligation not only to tolerate but also to encourage and support the free expression of ideas, values, and opinions, even where they may be unpopular or controversial.  

Cal Poly accepts and embraces this obligation, recognizing that such expression may take a variety of forms, such as speeches, signs, written materials, public assemblies, parades, demonstrations and artistic representation.

Reference Campus Administrative Policies

Guidelines, Tips, & Policies

We welcome campus activism because it contributes to an inclusive dialogue. If you choose to engage in a demonstration, we encourage you to review the following tips below: 

Student Tips


  1. Prior to your demonstration: Review Cal Poly policies and clarify policy-related questions with Dean of Students at 805-756-5467.
  2. Develop a plan: Meet with the Dean of Students to discuss the demonstration logistics such as format, location, speakers, and any other pertinent issues to assure a safe and successful event.
  3. If planning an event, reserve a venue: Make a reservation for an appropriate venue with ASI Facility Reservations at 805-756-7587. Utilize the time, place and manner regulations along with areas for public gatherings and sound amplification policies (as mentioned in Campus Administrative Policies)
  4. Designate a student liaison: Notify the Office of the Dean of Students of the person in that role. 
  5. Report safety concerns promptly: If safety is a concern, contact Cal Poly Police Department (UPD) at 805-756-2281 immediately.
  6. Be prepared: Meet with your members and discuss how they should respond in case they are confronted with offensive speech, behavior or violence during your demonstration. Do not respond physically. Contact Cal Poly Police Department.
  7. Always: Inform your participants of the university policies and share this publication.

How to Protest Safely


The University encourages all who engage in protest activity to protest safely. A few suggestions to consider: 


  1. Avoid activity that infringes on the rights of others, such as blocking and preventing the movement or access of others.
  2. Follow the lawful instructions of a police officer or public official, such as staying behind barricades, dispersing from an area declared an unlawful assembly, not resisting arrest. It is against the law to disobey a lawful order by a police officer.
  3. Leave the area where others are engaging in illegal activities and acts of violence. Your presence may be interpreted as participating in a riot or illegal group action. Staying overnight in a campus building after hours is prohibited. (Refer to CAP 140 for other rules applicable to campus buildings.)
  4. Refrain from speech that incites others to commit acts of violence.
  5. Refrain from pushing, kicking or spitting on others, or other unlawful actions.
  6. Make informed decisions. If you choose to engage in civil disobedience and get arrested, know the potential consequences. Contact the Cal Poly Police Department for more information.

If you believe your rights have been violated by a police officer or other public official, ask for his or her name and badge number (if a police officer) and file a complaint after the situation has calmed down or concluded. Formal complaints or charges may be filed with the Cal Poly Police Department; Dean of Students and the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities are also available to students for informal complaint resolution.


*(Adapted from "How to Protest Safely." UC Berkeley: Division of Student Affairs. N.p., 16 Dec. 2014. Web. 30 Jan. 2017.)

Standards for Student Conduct


The following are grounds upon which student discipline can be based: 


Title 5.2 §41301


  • Unauthorized entry into, presence in, use of, or misuse of University property (section 41301.2). 
  • Willful, material and substantial disruption or obstruction of a University-related activity, or any on-campus activity (section 41301.3). 
  • Participating in an activity that substantially and materially disrupts the normal operations of the University, or infringes on the rights of members of the University community (section 41301.4). 
  • Willful, material and substantial obstruction of the free flow of pedestrian or other traffic, on or leading to campus property or an off-campus University related activity (section 41301.5).
  • Disorderly, lewd, indecent, or obscene behavior at a University related activity, or directed toward a member of the University community (section 41301.6).
  • Conduct that threatens or endangers the health or safety of any person within or related to the University community, including physical abuse, threats, intimidation, harassment, or sexual misconduct (section 41301.7). 
  • Theft of property or services from the University community, or misappropriation of University resources (section 41301.11). Violation of any published University policy, rule, regulation or presidential order (section 41301.16).
  • Failure to comply with directions of, or interference with, any University official or any public safety officer while acting in the performance of his/her duties (section 41301.17). 

(Refer to CAP 140 for other applicable policies.)


Interpretation of Policy


Contact the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities:  805-756-2794

Additional Resources

Freedom of Expression

The University seeks to foster and sustain a forum for the free and orderly exchange of ideas, values and opinions, recognizing that individuals grow and learn when confronted with differing views, alternative ways of thinking, and conflicting values. The search for knowledge requires the freedom to speak openly about concerns and issues. All members of the University community and the public are free to lawfully exercise their right to freedom of expression on University property.

Rights of Free Speech and Academic Freedom at Cal Poly

Cal Poly recognizes and supports the principle of academic freedom, by which each instructional faculty member, researcher, librarian and counselor, and student has the right to teach, to conduct research, and to publish material relevant to that faculty member's discipline, even when such material is controversial.

Time, Place and Manner Policies

In order to support and achieve its educational mission, Cal Poly has an obligation to maintain an environment in which the business of the University can be conducted without disruption, in accordance with the highest standards of institutional integrity, academic freedom, freedom of expression, and recognition of the rights, privileges and responsibilities of University community members and the public.  Cal Poly may impose reasonable time, place and manner restrictions on exercising the right of free expression, to preserve the safe and orderly operation of the campus. Activities that are determined to pose a risk to personal safety, university property, or facility security will be rescheduled until such time that adequate and appropriate security can be made available, as determined by the Cal Poly Police Department. Refer to Campus Administrative Policies 140.


Reference Campus Administrative Policies

Campus Partners

Office of the Dean of Students



Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities



Office of Equal Opportunity



Office of University Diversity and Inclusion


Related Content


Contact Us

Get Connected

Follow Dean of Students

Cal Poly Cares

Apply for a Grant

Student Affairs

Visit Student Affairs