Protests and Demonstrations Policy

While the University respects the freedoms and rights of every individual, there remains an expectation for all who interact on Campus that their behavior be guided by the principles outlined in the ‘Civil Behavior in a University’ Section.

The primary function of a university is to discover and disseminate knowledge by means of research and teaching. To fulfill this function, a free interchange of ideas is necessary not only within the university but also with the larger society. At the University of Chicago, freedom of expression is vital to our shared goal of the pursuit of knowledge. Such freedom comes with a responsibility to welcome and promote this freedom for all, even in disagreement or opposition.

The right of freedom of expression at the University includes peaceful protests and orderly demonstrations. At the same time, the University has long recognized that the right to protest and demonstrate does not include the right to engage in conduct that disrupts the University's operations or endangers the safety of others. University Statute 21 states:

“Disruptive conduct is conduct by any member of the University community that substantially obstructs, impairs, or interferes with: (i) teaching, study, research, or administration of the University, including UCMC’s clinical mission; (ii) the authorized and other permissible use of University facilities, including meetings of University students, faculty, staff, administrators and/or guests; or (iii) the rights and privileges of other members of the University community. Any member of the University who engages in disruptive conduct will be subject to disciplinary action. Disruptive conduct includes but is not limited to (1) obstruction, impairment, or interference with University sponsored or authorized activities or facilities in a manner that is likely to or does deprive others of the benefit or enjoyment of the activity or facility and (2) use or threatened use of force against any member of the University community or his or her family that substantially and directly bears upon the member's functions within the University.”

The Dean-on-Call will often be called upon to be present at and monitor protests, demonstrations, and other events on or adjacent to University property. If called upon, the Dean-on-Call will work actively to preserve an environment of spirited and open discourse and debate, allowing for the opportunity to have all participants contribute to intellectual exchange and full participation in an event. In instances of disruptive behavior or violations of University policies, the Dean-on-Call will respond and provide direct instructions to stop disruption, if it is safe to do so. Failure to adhere to directives may result in referral to one or more University disciplinary systems. 

All Protests and demonstrations held outdoors are subject to the same guidelines outlined in the section Outdoor Events on Campus, under the heading Noise Level.

For a protest or demonstration attention must be paid to the occupancy limits and general safety of the University community in the space used. Please see Building Occupancy Limits and Access. Adherence to building closures is expected of people participating in a protest or demonstration within a University building and University officials will require that protestors or demonstrators leave at the time of building closure.

Placards, banners, and signs generally are allowed but may not be dangerous for others or impede the participation of others in the life of the University. If the use of placards, banners, and signs are deemed to be dangerous or impede the participation of others, University officials will require the individuals carrying the placards, banners, or signs to move to a different location or remove their materials. 

To further the effectiveness of their event, organizations and other groups of students organizing a protest or demonstration are encouraged to make advance arrangements with the staff of the Center for Leadership and Involvement (CLI) and/or their appropriate Recognized Student Organization (RSO) Advisor. Advance notification enables the University to help ensure that the event takes place in a constructive and peaceable manner.

When possible, a request to hold a protest or demonstration should be submitted at least 48 hours before the start of the event to ensure its successful execution. With the appropriate advance notice, RSO Advisors together with the Dean-on-Call will engage with student protestors and demonstrators during the event to help assure that the event is effective, to ensure participants’ safety, and to assist organizers in seeing that the demonstration does not disrupt the normal functioning of the University. For events occurring on city sidewalks and streets adjacent to the University, students should make appropriate arrangements to acquire city permits and should adhere to city ordinances and applicable state and federal law.

Please see the Report of the Ad Hoc Committee on Protest and Dissent for additional information regarding the principles that govern protests and demonstrations on campus.

Protests and demonstrations normally are permitted until or unless University officials determine that University operations have been compromised and/or the rights of others have been significantly infringed. Interference with instruction and research are viewed as particularly disruptive to the University.

Application of this policy does not preclude the application of other University policies or regulations as may be warranted by a given situation, e.g., Authority to Direct, University ID policy, use of the Dean-on-Call program, and University Disciplinary Systems. Furthermore, a protest or demonstration that significantly disrupts the operations of the University or fails to adhere to building closures may lead to arrest and prosecution for violations of City of Chicago ordinances or State or Federal statutes.

A protest, demonstration, or event on campus may invite another form of protest. When these occasions arise, the expression of all parties is important. Please note that a separate protest area may be designated by Campus and Student Life for those persons with views that differ from the views held by the event organizers. In order to ensure the safety of all participants, the University Police Department may require the attendance of one or more officers.

All people participating in protests and demonstrations are expected to provide a form of University issued or government issued identification upon request from a University official.