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Rules for holding outdoor events on campus clarified

The rules for faculty, staff and students to plan and hold outdoor events on campus, including protests and demonstrations, have been clarified.

The Outdoor Space Working Group (OSWG), composed of administrators, faculty and students and led by Jim Blair, then chair of the University Assembly, was asked in October 2014 to gather information regarding use of Cornell outdoor spaces; define outdoor spaces that should be governed by time, place and manner rules; and suggest how these rules should be developed, published and made accessible to faculty, staff and students.

Last spring OSWG submitted a report that included a “minimal set of rules related to outdoor space.” These have been authorized by President Elizabeth Garrett as university policy and are available for review on the Events Planning website.

“The rules that the working group developed balance the university’s deep commitment to free speech and expression with the need to continue to conduct classes and pursue other academic work,” Garrett said. “They uphold Cornell’s long-standing principle of freedom with responsibility.”

The rules are consonant with existing university policies and Campus Code of Conduct provisions and include the following:

  • Holding or hosting events on Cornell-owned property is restricted to members of the Cornell community. External groups must be sponsored by a member of the Cornell community, who must be present at the event.
  • Events must comply with applicable laws, regulations and university policies.
  • Classes, research, scheduled events and activities, and the normal and essential operations of the university shall not be disrupted.
  • Individuals and groups have the right to engage in protests and counter-protests. However, no one may substantially interfere with another speaker’s right to be heard or the right of others to hear a speaker.
  • Use of public address systems and amplified sound will be permitted without prior approval, noon-1 p.m. only, at Ho Plaza and in front of Day Hall. Public address systems and amplified sound will be permitted in other outdoor locations only with prior approval.
  • Individuals cannot block public rights of way or entrances and exits to university buildings.
  • No permit or registration is required for picketing, marches, rallies and other demonstrations held on outdoor campus property. According to the Campus Code of Conduct, “such activities are allowed so long as demonstrators do not disrupt other functions, including, without limitation, regular and special curricular activities, extracurricular activities, academic processions and events, conduct of university business and employment interviews.” Other events are subject to event registration requirements, which can be accessed on the event planning website.

Indoor demonstrations such as sit-ins continue to be governed by the Campus Code of Conduct, which states that classrooms, libraries, laboratories, living units, and faculty and administrative offices are dedicated to specific purposes, which the university must be free to pursue without disruption. “The law of trespass and the right of free speech are not mutually exclusive and, indeed, have always coexisted in our legal system,” the code states.


Media Contact

Joe Schwartz