Frequently Asked Questions for Students

1. What is expressive activity?

Expressive activities are speech-related activities, including:

  • meetings;
  • other group events or activities by student organizations or their invited guests;
  • speeches;
  • performances;
  • demonstrations;
  • rallies;
  • vigils;
  • distributions of literature; and
  • any other activity protected by the First Amendment.

2. What kind of speech is protected by the First Amendment?

Virginia Peninsula property is primarily dedicated to academic, student life and administrative functions. As an institution of higher learning, Virginia Peninsula also represents the “marketplace of ideas,” and especially for students, many areas of campus represent a public forum for speech and other expressive activities.

The U.S. Constitution protects most speech, with very limited exceptions. In outdoor spaces, the college may place reasonable limits only on the time, place, and, manner of your expressive activity, and those limits must not depend on the content or viewpoint of the expressive activity. In addition, for outdoor areas, students, student organizations, and their guests are not required to give notice before engaging in expressive activity. In other words, students, student organizations, employees, and guests may engage in spontaneous expressive activities as long as they do not engage in any of the conduct listed in Number 3 below.

3. What kind of actions related to protected speech can be regulated?

Most speech is protected by the Constitution, but sometimes, the actions that a speaker takes during an expressive activity are disruptive enough to allow a college to intervene, regardless of what is actually being expressed. For outdoor facilities and areas, students, student organizations, and their guests may freely engage in expressive activity as long as they do not also engage in any of the following:

  • block access to campus buildings;
  • obstruct traffic (vehicles or pedestrians);
  • substantially disrupt previously scheduled campus events;
  • substantially disrupt college operations or violate or hinder the rights of others;
  • break the law; or
  • create a threat to public safety, according to the college’s police or security department.

Additionally, the First Amendment does not protect speech that is designed to incite or produce imminent lawless action, and that is likely to incite or produce such action. Other types of unprotected speech include true threats and harassment in limited circumstances. A true threat is a serious expression of an intent to commit an act of unlawful violence against a particular individual or group of individuals. Unprotected harassment is behavior that is extreme and pervasive and so serious that it prevents a reasonable person from receiving his or her education.

4. How can someone reserve campus facilities for speech activities?

a. Request submission

Contact Kadisia Archer, Coordinator of Student Life and Leadership, at archerk@vpcc.edu to reserve campus facilities. Spaces are reserved on a first-come-first served basis. Virginia Peninsula places restrictions on expressive activities occurring indoors, but outdoor areas of campus remain venues for free expression, including speeches, demonstrations, and the distribution of literature. Indoors or outdoors, Virginia Peninsula shall not interfere with the rights of individuals and groups to the free expression of their views or impermissibly regulate their speech based on its content or viewpoint. Nevertheless, the College may establish reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions on expressive activity. No event or expressive activity shall be permitted to violate or hinder the rights of others within the campus community or substantially disrupt normal college operations.

Administrative offices, libraries, and (during instructional hours) classrooms are not available for expressive activity. Students may access a list of indoor spaces that may be reserved for expressive activity through the Office of Student Life and Leadership. Any indoor restrictions on expressive activity will be applied equally to all individuals and organizations and not depend on the content or viewpoint of the expression or the possible reaction to that expression.

b. Timing

If students, student organizations, or college employees desire to reserve campus facilities, they shall submit their requests to the Student Life and Leadership Coordinator or designee. Requests must be made with at least 24 hours’ notice. More notice may be required to allow for sufficient logistical support and to ensure the safety and security of the campus. If individuals or organizations who are not members of the Virginia Peninsula community (i.e., not student, student organizations, or college employees) desire to reserve campus facilities, they must be sponsored by a recognized student organization or Virginia Peninsula to conduct expressive activities or events on campus. These individuals or organizations should contact the Coordinator of Student Life and Leadership if interested in being sponsored by Virgina Peninsula. You are encouraged to request the facility as soon as possible.

c. Denials

When assessing a request to reserve a facility, the college must not consider the content (unless the facility is used only for certain purposes, for example, only for the college’s administration use) or viewpoint of the expressive activity, or the possible reaction to the expressive activity. If a facility or space is generally available to be reserved, the college can refuse a reservation by a student, student organization, or employee only for the following reasons:

  • The venue is an indoor facility that has been designated as unavailable for reservation.
  • The venue is an indoor facility and the request is in conflict with any restrictions the college has placed on the facility. For example, a restriction could be that the indoor facility is unavailable on the weekends.
  • The venue has been reserved already at the time requested.
  • The size of the anticipated crowd is too large for the space.
  • The activity would substantially disrupt another event occurring in close proximity.
  • The activity would substantially disrupt college operations.
  • The activity is a clear and present threat to campus safety, according to police or security.
  • The activity occurs during college exam periods.
  • The activity is against the law.

d. Responsibility for the space

During an event, the student, student organization, or college employee requesting the reservation is responsible for preserving and maintaining the facility reserved. If the event causes any damage to those facilities, the person(s) or organization (and its officers, if applicable) shall assume responsibility. Anyone who reserves a facility or space is responsible for maintaining the space and will be responsible for any damages, cleaning costs, or other costs.

5. Is the college required to have indoor areas available for spontaneous expressive activities?

No. The college is not required to have an indoor area designated for spontaneous speech activities. However, if it chooses to create one or more, college officials must post that the area is available for students, student organizations, employees and their guests to engage in expressive activities. The area must be available for all students, student organizations, employees, and guests equally, and not depend on the content or viewpoint of the expression or the possible reaction to it.

6. What do I do if someone or a group tries to disrupt my, my organization’s or invited guest’s speech?

To report a disruption of protected speech, contact Campus Police at by calling 757-825-2732 or completing a form to report all emergencies, criminal and/or suspicious activities. In cases of emergency, please call 911 or 757-825-3511.

7. I have additional questions.

Please contact Kadisia Archer at archerk@vpcc.edu for more information. 

[1] The words “speech” and “expressive activity” may be used interchangeably.