Demonstrations by Students

The University of Massachusetts is a public institution. Under the U.S. Constitution, certain rights are guaranteed when faculty and staff interact with students. The Constitutional aspects of the university/student relationship are especially implicated in the context of First Amendment rights of free speech and freedom to associate.

Students planning demonstrations are strongly urged to read key policies and consult with Student Activities and Involvement staff and/or the Student Legal Services Office to ensure awareness of their protected rights, University of Massachusetts Amherst policies, and the availability of campus resources to support the safe exercise of protected rights. Student Activities staff may be contacted at the SORC (The Student Organization Resource Center), located in Bartlett 202 or by calling (413) 545-3600 or emailing The Student Legal Services Office may be contacted at the Campus Center or by calling (413) 545-1995 or emailing Appeals under the Campus Regulation for Use of Property Policy can be sent to Appeals must be received within ten (10 ) days of the receipt of notice of denial or limitation.

Demonstration Guidelines

All students, undergraduate and graduate, have a right to demonstrate on university premises. While university policies regarding demonstrations are content-neutral, the university necessarily reserves the right to limit, disallow or disband a demonstration which incites immediate, violent action or represents a clear and present danger to the campus community or if for any reason of time, place, or manner of behavior, the demonstration materially disrupts class work or other University business, involves substantial disorder, or invades of the rights of others.

  • Demonstrators entering campus buildings for the purpose of conducting orderly and peaceful demonstrations may not enter or occupy rooms or offices; obstruct entry, exit, or restrict the free movement of persons; block hallways, doorways, stairs or exits of university facilities; materially interrupt or interfere with University business functions; or remain in buildings after close of normal hours of operation.
  • For safety and security reasons, demonstrators are not allowed to enter residence halls; private offices; laboratories; research facilities; spaces where classes or private meetings are being held or immediately scheduled to be held; libraries; facilities or areas containing valuable or sensitive materials, collections, equipment, records protected by law or by existing University policy such as educational records, student-related or personnel-related records, or financial records;  emergency facilities or any facilities housing communication systems, security, utilities, or other facilities or services vital to the business functions of the university.
  • Demonstrators can engage in activities that are legal and do not violate other’s constitutional rights or harm property. Any demonstration that violates any university policy may be discontinued, either at the direction of the administrator (or his/her designee) of the university unit administratively responsible for the space in which the demonstration is occurring, or at the direction of the University of Massachusetts Police Department (UMPD). If a Dispersal Order is read by UMPD, demonstrators must comply with directions and leave the immediate area. Blocking entry to or free exit from buildings, impeding or obstructing the free movement of others, engaging in harassing behavior, or inciting immediate, violent action that represents a clear and present danger to the campus community is prohibited under the Code of Student Conduct. Information on the types of behaviors that are considered ‘inciting’ are found in the Guidelines for Acceptable Fan Behavior.

Counter Demonstrations

A protest, demonstration, or event on campus may invite another form of protest.  When these occasions arise, all parties have a right to expression that must not be obstructed. In the interest of community safety and protection of rights, the University may designate a separate protest area for counter protestors. As with demonstrations, counter-demonstrations must not infringe upon the rights of others to engage in peaceful assembly, orderly protest, free exchange of ideas, or interfere with the rights of others to make use of campus facilities or attend university functions. This includes, but is not limited to, not damaging, defacing, marking, altering, or interfering with signs, tables or exhibits, or other items posted or displayed by others.

The Role of Campus Safety

One of the primary roles of the University of Massachusetts Police Department (UMPD) is to ensure the safety of the campus community. UMPD supports community members to exercise guaranteed rights and is committed to working with students, student groups, and student organizations to provide education and consultation on University policies, applicable laws, and safety and security procedures. The UMPD Community Outreach Officer is available to meet with students to discuss issues and concerns that may arise before or after a demonstration. If there is a complaint regarding an alleged impropriety by UMPD, a citizen complaint form can be filed. UMPD officers who are especially helpful and supportive can be commended by filing a commendation form.

Ensuring a Productive Demonstration

To help make sure that all participants stay safe, students, student groups, and student organizations planning to host demonstrations or rallies are strongly encouraged to include UMPD early in the planning process. This allows any potential safety issues to be addressed and for organizers to create safety and security procedures. Know Your Rights Trainings conducted by Student Legal Services Office and University Police Department can help ensure that organizers and participants have advance understanding of their rights and responsibilities.At times, UMPD officers may be present at a demonstration, protest, or event to ensure to ensure the safety of all participants and provide a more immediate response in the event of an emergency.

Organizers are strongly encouraged to inform attendees of the Code of Conduct and consequences for failure to adhere to its expectations. To support overall demonstration coordination and safety for participants, organizers should have at least one representative present throughout the demonstration. Be aware that some participants may have physical challenges that require assistance. Disability Services can provide advice on accommodating participants with disabilities or mobility challenges.

Note: Non-university organizations may use campus property for demonstrations only at the discretion of the university.