Demonstrations and Rallies

Student activism has long been a hallmark of the collegiate experience. At Johns Hopkins University, we expect and encourage students to use their voice and speak out on issues that are important to them. The University’s Guidelines for Students in Support of Free Expression at the Homewood Campus outlines the University’s stance and commitment in support of free expression.

While it is not a requirement to proactively engage with university administration when planning a protest, rally, or demonstration, students may find it useful to connect with Leadership Engagement & Experiential Development (LEED). Within Leadership Engagement & Experiential Development, there are administrators to assist students as they think about planning and orchestrating their rally, protest, or demonstration to ensure a successful event. In addition to working with Leadership Engagement & Experiential Development, the Student Guide to Planning Successful Demonstrations & Rallies can offer students valuable insight as they plan for a successful event.

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Johns Hopkins University’s Commitment to the Protection of, and the Right to, Freedom of Expression

Johns Hopkins University seeks to uphold and protect the right of free expression and presents these guidelines to aid students seeking to engage acts of free expression at the Homewood Campus. Freedom of Expression is an umbrella term that covers a host of ways to convey feelings, thoughts, opinions, and beliefs on a variety of issues. Acts serving as freedom of expression include, but are not limited to:

  • Academic Freedom
  • Protest – an action and formal objections against a cause or concern.
  • Demonstration – an action to stand for a cause or concern.
  • Civil Disobedience – a willful act to disobey a policy/rule/law in protest

It is our commitment to academic freedom as a fundamental value of the university, articulated in our Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom. Academic freedom depends on free expression and requires a commitment to maintaining a climate that fuels the discovery and dissemination of ideas through speech, reason, and debate. It is that commitment to academic freedom, articulated below, that undergirds our belief in the right to freedom of expression and the creation of these guidelines.

Academic Freedom at Johns Hopkins

Academic Freedom at Johns Hopkins

Academic freedom protects the right to speak and create, to question and dissent, to participate in debate on and off campus, and to invite others to do the same, all without fear of restraint or penalty. It is designed to afford members of the community the broadest possible scope for unencumbered expression, investigation, analysis, and discourse. Indeed, among the measures of an academic community is its success in creating a culture of active discussion and debate, one where its members open themselves to the views of others, even when those views are provocative or unfamiliar.

Our university is committed to the steadfast protection of the right to academic freedom. This commitment emerges from the university’s time-honored role in the creation of knowledge and the sifting and winnowing of ideas. Without full and vigorous protection of this principle, the university’s capacity to discharge its hallowed mission would be compromised.

However, academic freedom is not unbounded. As with the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, on whose precepts it is based, academic freedom does not guarantee the right to defame or threaten, to deface or harass, or to incite violence or infringe on privacy. And reasonable and viewpoint-neutral rules for the time, place, and manner of expression are a legitimate way to ensure the orderly conduct of the university.

Further, academic freedom entails academic responsibility. There is no right to plagiarize or otherwise engage in academic or scientific misconduct. The exercise of judgment on the basis of professional criteria and the highest intellectual standards, in matters such as academic quality and performance evaluations, is both permissible and necessary. Even so, limits such as these, essential to the functioning of the university, should be seen as narrow exceptions to the presumption of open and vigorous expression.

A professional and respectful exchange of views is integral to creating a positive environment for learning, teaching, and research. Each of us has a critical role to play in cultivating a climate of intellectual diversity, dignity, and respect. But academic freedom necessarily permits the expression of views that even the vast majority of the community may find misguided, ignorant, or offensive. The appropriate response to such statements in an academic setting is not to censor or punish, but to challenge, criticize, and persuade.

Johns Hopkins continues to expand its connections to a range of partnerships with external entities. Some funding sources may seek to control data and research findings or to limit their dissemination. And the university’s mission, its influence, and its presence reach far beyond the traditional campus, to countries and cultures and institutions that do not share the same understanding of free speech and academic freedom principles. In these situations, special care must be taken to maintain the university’s core principles of free and independent inquiry.

Johns Hopkins was home to the early development of the concept of academic freedom in this country. The torch of free inquiry is a critical part of our heritage and our mission. Each of us, in our time as members of this community of scholars, bears a responsibility for nurturing its flame, and passing it on to those who will follow.

Accordingly, these guidelines are designed to support the right to engage in acts of free expression and the right of an audience to receive that expression. Any negative short-term effects of airing controversial views – provided those views are expressed in ways that do not threaten, incite violence, or raise demonstrable health or safety concerns – are outweighed by the long-term benefits to our community of a robust exchange of ideas.

General Guidelines

General Guidelines

The University strives to actively support and promote acts of public expression on campus.

Students interested in organizing or engaging in protests, demonstrations or other acts of free expression may, but are not required to, seek support from the Offices of the Provost, Student Life, Leadership Engagement & Experiential Development, and Public Safety. Advance notice is not intended as a precursor to restraint of speech, but as an opportunity to ensure an event is successful.

In working to support free speech and expression, the University is also protective of the health and safety of all members of our community (students, faculty, and staff). We are committed to establishing a safe environment in which free speech and expression can take place by:

  1. ensuring the physical health and safety of our community;
  2. prohibiting speech and expression that constitute threats or harassment directed at a specific person or group, including threats based on race, ethnicity, religion, sex, gender, disability, age, or other protected status; and
  3. prohibiting any inciting of violence.

Protests, demonstrations, and other acts of public expression generally will be permitted and supported until or unless members of the Provost’s Office, including the Vice Provost for Student Affairs, determine that the rights of others have been significantly infringed and/or determine – in consultation with Public Safety, as needed – that there is a threat to the safety or welfare of those in attendance. Material interference with the rights of others to engage in instruction and research will be viewed as inhibiting the academic freedom of others and disruptive to the core educational mission of the university.

Disruptions raising health, safety, and welfare concerns may include but are not limited to: obstructing the passage into or out of buildings by blocking doorways; preventing University employees from entering their workplace; refusing to relocate from a building or area that is closed; preventing members of a class from being able to hear a lecture or take an exam; preventing an instructor from giving a lecture, by means of shouts or other significant interruptions; and destruction of property or vandalism.

How to Plan and Register a Demonstration

How to Plan and Register a Demonstration

While arrangements are not required for student demonstrations, they can help make the event successful and effective by ensuring a space is not already reserved for another group, proactively ensuring the health and safety of participants and the university community, and allowing public expression to proceed without interfering with the academic mission of the University.

Under existing policies, arrangements are generally required for Registered Student Organizations (RSO) seeking to use common spaces (such as lecture halls and outdoor spaces). RSOs that decide to register their event can do so under their organization’s event profile on Hopkins Groups. For non-RSOs or individual students, the University’s online event scheduling form makes this easy.

A list of policies related to space reservation is provided at the end of this document. Students are also encouraged to review the Leadership Engagement & Experiential Development Event Planning Guide and the Student Conduct Code, which provides information such as processes for reserving space on campus; marketing and promotion; campus building information; and who to contact for support and help.

These guidelines are focused on events which take place on campus. 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.

If you or your organization are planning to host a demonstration on campus, please feel free to contact us at (410) 516-4873 or [email protected]; or (410) 516-8208 or [email protected].

Placards, Banners, and Signs

Placards, banners, and signs generally are allowed so long as they are not dangerous to others and do not significantly impede the participation of others in usual University activities and operations. If the use of placards, banners, or signs are dangerous or significantly impede the participation of others, University officials may require the individuals carrying the placards, banners, or signs to move to a different location or to adjust or remove the materials.


Protests, demonstrations, or other acts of free expression on campus may prompt a counter-protest or other forms of expression. When these arise, the expression of all parties is important and will be supported in accordance with these guidelines. On occasion, a separate protest area may be designated by the Offices of the Dean of Student Life, Student Affairs, or the Provost, for those seeking to express views that differ from those expressed by the event organizers, to ensure that all views can be expressed.


Students may invite guests—i.e. those individuals or groups not formally affiliated with the University—to join in acts of public expression on campus, but students are responsible for informing their guests of university guidelines and policies and are accountable for the actions of their guests in accordance with the university’s Guest Policy. In addition, those participating in protests, demonstrations, or other acts of public expression on the Homewood campus may be asked to provide identification. Uninvited guests or others who have no direct affiliation with the University are not covered by the same rights of access, demonstration, or other activity.

Planning Process

Does the intent of event the Registered Student Organization/ individual meet any of the following definitions?


Demonstration (political): an action to stand for a cause or concern. Examples: Sit-ins, Marches, Rallies, Die-Ins, Picketing, etc.

Protest: an action and formal objections against a cause or concern. Examples: Rallies, Marches, Vigils, Picketing, Ceremony, Sit-Ins, etc.

Disruption: Is a disturbance or problems which interrupt an event, class, lecture, lab, activity, or process. If so, before students begin planning their demonstration, please consider the following:

  • What are the needs of the organization, or community, and how can this demonstration help meet those needs?
  • What do we want participants to gain or experience from this demonstration?
  • Does this demonstration align with the stated mission and goals of the organization?

Answering these questions with the organization’s planning team will help to focus your efforts and will be effective in meeting the needs of the organization and the Hopkins community. Once student leaders reflect and discuss these questions, it is time to start brainstorming the details of the demonstration:

  • What activities and element will the organization incorporate to support the purpose of the event and the mission of the organization? Live speaker? Live music? Speaker or lecturer? Sports activity? Food? Novelty act?
  • Are their opportunities for collaboration with another organization(s)? Are their organizations that would align with the goals of the demonstration?
  • Who will take the lead in coordinating the demonstration? n What time and day of the week are ideal for our demonstration? Select a few different options to remain flexible.
  • How many people do we expect to attend our event? Make sure your expected attendance matches the room capacity of your location.
  • What locations would be ideal for the demonstration? Select 2-3 different options and remain flexible.
  • What would be the ideal start and end time of the demonstration? Determine how much time will be needed for set-up and breakdown.
  • Who is most likely to attend the demonstration? Who is the target audience, students, staff, faculty, community members?

How to Register a Demonstration

Registered Student Organizations (RSO)

Register the demonstration on Hopkins Groups by finding your organization and creating an event. This can be accomplished by:

  1. Sign into Hopkins Groups
  2. Navigate to your RSO’s page
  3. On the group’s page click “Events”
  4. Click the “Create Event” button at the top right-hand side of the page
  5. Review the “Find a Space” on the Scheduling Event Services website to confirm which spaces are available for the demonstration.
  6. Fill out the corresponding information to get a listing of space availability.
  7. Enter that information into the Hopkins Groups submission.

Note: RSOs only submit event registrations into Hopkins Groups. There is no need to complete the Scheduling Event Services registration form. The purpose of reviewing the Scheduling Events Services form is to confirm space availability.

Students must be assigned as an officer or “active member” to have access to the event registration feature. Typically, events, including demonstrations, would be required to be submitted 10 days in advance, however, Leadership Engagement & Experiential Development will work collaboratively with the appropriate scheduling offices and the RSO to execute their demonstration on a shorter timeline assuming it does not conflict with a previously scheduled event in the same space.

Space will not be confirmed until the event is registered and approved on Hopkins Groups. A confirmation will be sent to the demonstration organizer once the event is approved. Within that confirmation, there will be specific rules and regulations at the bottom of the confirmation attached to the confirmation email. Please review the rules and regulations to avoid complications and/or fees.

Non-Registered Student Organization(s) or Individual Students

  1. Navigate to the Scheduling Event Services event site.
  2. Review the “Find a Space” on the Scheduling Event Services to confirm which spaces are available for the demonstration.
  3. Fill out the corresponding information to get a listing of space availability.
  4. Select the 2-3 desired spaces on campus.
  5. Complete the remainder of the registration form. TIP: The demonstration registration will help determine what resources and support will be needed. Once submitted, a staff member will contact the demonstration organizer to help coordinate resource needs as appropriate.

Campus Resources

Campus Resources

Dean of Student Life

The Office of the Dean of Student Life (DoSL) aims to cultivate an inclusive and healthy community that fosters growth, exploration, and engagement. Whether direct advisement on their demonstration through Leadership Engagement & Experiential Development, to meeting individual student needs with Student Outreach and Support, to post demonstration collaboration and advocacy with Diversity and Inclusion, DoSL is available to usher the appropriate resources to meet those needs.

Leadership Engagement & Experiential Development

Through leadership and involvement opportunities, we work collaboratively with students to develop programs, organizations, and spaces that promote individual growth and cultivate inclusive communities. Within Leadership Engagement & Experiential Development (LEED), there are administrators to assist students as they think about planning and orchestrating their rally, protest, or demonstration to ensure a successful event.

Scheduling Event Services

Scheduling Event Services (SES) is the one-stop shop for Homewood Campus for services to execute successful meetings and events. SES provides comprehensive event management and consultation. Additionally, SES assists in marshalling resources that would be necessary to execute a successful demonstration.

Public Safety

Public Safety strives to ensure that Johns Hopkins is a place where students, faculty, and staff are able to enjoy rewarding academic and social experiences.

Well-being Resources

For a comprehensive view of resources that JHU provides please visit the well-being website which provides a wide range of resources and programs to support student wellness. The well-being website organizes the resources across seven facets of well-being: emotional and mental health, physical, social, sexual, spiritual, financial, and professional.

Mental Health

  • JHU Well-Being Website: A link to a digital library of university health and wellness programs including physical, emotional, and mental, social, sexual, spiritual, financial, and professional.
  • TimelyMD: Free professional mental one-on-one telehealth counseling, with both 24/7 TalkNow as well as scheduled counseling options
  • SilverCloud: Interactive online learning modules for cognitive behavioral therapy techniques
  • A Place To Talk: Group listening service with undergraduate peers trained in crisis intervention and listening skills. A Place to Talk (APTT) is the peer listening group for the Johns Hopkins community. They offer a cozy environment for anyone to discuss anything, from everyday frustrations to serious concerns. The peer listeners are undergraduate students who have been selected and trained in 50 hours (about 2 days) of active listening skills and crisis intervention through the JHU Counseling Center.
  • Calm: Meditation, mindful movement, and sleep assistance app (Premium Version with JHU)
  • Counseling Center: Johns Hopkins counselor support
  • Campus Religious and Spiritual Advisors: Members of the Religious & Spiritual Life Advisory Board are committed to the holistic development of Johns Hopkins University and recognize their mission to minister to the spiritual, emotional, and ethical journeys of the JHU community. They are a group of individuals devoted to a distinctive religious calling, dedicated to serving those in their own tradition, and yet also called to engage in the search for meaning in a challenging and competitive academic setting.

Event Management

Time management will be helpful to those who are assisting with the event planning process. There are many requirements through the university and sometimes outside entities when hosting large gatherings or demonstrations on campus. To ensure that you and/or your group are successful in completing all necessary components, be sure to manage your time accordingly.

  • Set Your Goals and Priorities: Review all that you need to complete and decide what is the most important. Be realistic and specific when setting your goals. What needs to be done now and what can wait?
  • Break Larger Tasks into smaller segments: Take one large task or project and break it into smaller segments with your own internal deadlines. Follow your plans, stay on track, and avoid working on things at the last minute.
  • Budget and monitor your time: Take time to review your plans each day and update your schedule as needed. Overestimate the time needed for task related to your event. If you get done early, move on to something else.
  • Organize your event planning by due date: As you start planning your event, write down all important tasks and deadlines in a planner or electronic calendar. You will be able to see when you have busy periods and can plan accordingly.

Related Policies and Guidelines