Guidelines for Students in Support of Free Expression Through Protests and Demonstrations at the Homewood Campus

Johns Hopkins University seeks to uphold and protect the right of free expression and presents these guidelines to aid students seeking to engage in protests, demonstrations, vigils, displays, or other acts of public expression at the Homewood Campus.

These guidelines emerge from our commitment to academic freedom as a fundamental value of the university, articulated in our PDF Document: 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.

Accordingly, these guidelines are designed to support the right to engage in acts of public 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

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 public expression may, but are not required to, seek support from the Offices of the Provost, Student Life, and Campus Safety and Security. Advance notice is not intended as a precursor to restraint of speech, but rather 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 Campus Safety and Security, 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.

Additional Information


Under existing policies, arrangements are generally required for recognized student groups seeking to use common spaces (such as lecture halls and outdoor spaces). 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 Student Leadership and Involvement 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.

While arrangements are not required for student protests and 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.

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.

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 Office of Student Life for those seeking to express views that differ from those expressed by the event organizers, in order 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.

Related Policies

Related policies and guidelines include:

Effective January 29, 2018