Student Activism

The University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) recognizes the fundamental importance of freedom of expression. The free interchange of ideas is vital in the pursuit of knowledge.

The important freedom students hold in the academic space comes with responsibility. Students who engage in free speech activities should foster an environment where all voices are welcome. This requires recognition that others may challenge or oppose your views.

UMB is firmly committed to equity, diversity, and inclusion. We respect individuals' rights as preserved in the First Amendment of the Constitution. Many challenging and controversial issues may arise for discussion. UMB provides a safe environment for constructive engagement among students, faculty, and staff.

As a state institution and public university, it is important to protect the rights of all. When exercising our rights to free speech and assembly, we must uphold our core values of Equity and Justice and Respect and Integrity

This guidance is for students who exercise these rights at UMB. While public employees also have certain speech rights under the First Amendment, those rights are not the same as addressed by this guidance.

Freedom of Expression at UMB

What does student activism look like? 

At its heart, activism is the deliberate endeavor to foster change. Most activism efforts focus on social, political, economic, or environmental issues. The push to change comes through engagement, advocacy, and individual or unified efforts.

This pursuit of change unfolds through a rich array of expressions. One such example is the written word in letter campaigns. There is also the spirited energy of peaceful demonstrations. Within this landscape of activism are endeavors such as community advocacy, informative awareness campaigns, and collective action.

Some pathways for engaging in student activism include:

  • Educating Others
    Share knowledge and insight through various platforms, nurturing understanding and dialogue.
  • Advocating for Legislation
    Champion causes through legislative channels, striving to shape policy and effect lasting change.
  • Joining Peaceful Protests or Demonstrations
    Stand in solidarity with like-minded individuals, amplifying voices and advocating for justice.
  • Creating Public Awareness Campaigns
    Craft compelling narratives to spark conversation and drive action, harnessing the power of communication platforms.
  • Engaging in Community Service
    Extend support to those in need, fostering empathy and making tangible contributions to societal well-being.

By embracing these avenues, students can become catalysts for meaningful transformation, shaping a brighter future for all.

Are there any limits on freedom of expression on campus? 

Yes. According to the University System of Maryland (USM) Freedom of Speech and Expression Value Statement and Guidelines, there are certain limitations on freedom of expression on campus. USM institutions, including UMB, protect every individual's freedom to speak. Each individual must also have the opportunity to hear all views. Hateful speech that is not a true threat or unlawful harassment cannot be prohibited.

UMB is not obligated to shield individuals from speech with which they may disagree. It may impose restrictions on the time, place, and manner of speech. This must happen under uniformly applied guidelines. Protected speech cannot be restricted based on its content.

Exposure to diverse perspectives, even those that some may find disagreeable or offensive, is an essential part of the UMB educational experience. It fosters a greater understanding of how to respectfully engage with differing opinions while upholding the principles of freedom of speech and expression.

How do students organize a demonstration or protest on campus? Are there specific steps students need to take? 

When organizing a demonstration or protest on the UMB campus, students must adhere to:

These rules are in place to facilitate the operations of the University while ensuring a safe and orderly environment for all.

UMB Police and Public Safety and UMB administration play a crucial role in supporting and facilitating demonstrations. They also work to ensure the safety and security of all individuals on campus.

If you are a UMB student or student organization interested in holding a planned protest, march, or other activism activity, please complete this form (coming soon) at least 72 hours prior to your proposed event.

Notifying these authorities in advance ensures proper coordination and preparation for the event.

Am I allowed to protest an event or speaker on campus? 

As a member of our University community, you have the right to engage in peaceful protest. You have the right to express your views on campus. However, it's essential that your protest activities comply with policies and guidelines. This is important to maintain safety and order on campus.

Any disruptive behavior or violation of University rules during protests may result in consequences in accordance with University policies. Event planners are typically responsible for ensuring that their events proceed with safety. This responsibility does extend to all participants.

It's important to be aware of the presence of law enforcement resources at the University and city level. Their primary role is to ensure the safety and security of all individuals on campus. Law enforcement may intervene if protests pose a risk to public safety. They may also step in if there are violations of law or University policies.

While exercising your right to protest, please be responsible and peaceful. Make sure your actions are in accordance with University regulations and local and federal laws. This will help us all ensure the safety and well-being of all members of our community.

What support networks or advocacy groups exist for student activists? 

For students seeking support and advocacy, contact UMB Student Affairs and/or your Student Affairs Dean. These individuals serve as a valuable resource for students involved in activism, on and off campus. They are committed to: 

  • educating student activists 
  • assisting students in understanding University policy
  • addressing safety concerns
  • providing guidance on navigating activism-related issues
  • coordinating appropriate responses for various events
  • ensuring that student activists receive necessary support while advocating for their causes
  • serving as the primary liaisons between administrators, UMB Police and Public Safety, and students