Free speech

Use of college facilities for free speech by third parties

The College campus may be used for free speech purposes by third parties pursuant to the delegation of authority by the SUNY Board of Trustees (SUNY Policy #5603 - Use of Facilities by Non-Commercial Organizations).  The College reserves the right to determine the time, place, and manner of assembly or presentation in order to assure the continuity and quality of the educational process both in and out of class, the protection of property, and the safety of individuals.  

The College recognizes an obligation to provide a free speech area of the campus for use by third parties (not part of or sponsored by the College or a registered student organization).  This policy applies to third parties and does not apply to the College's students, speakers officially sponsored by registered student groups, faculty or staff.   The rights of students, faculty and staff regarding free speech are included in the Regulations and Procedures for Maintaining Public Order on Campuses of the State University of New York, the Code of Student Rights, Responsibilities and Conduct, and the Bill of Rights and Responsibilities for Faculty, Students, Administrators, Staff and College Council at Oswego, all of which are contained in the Student Handbook located at:

As a public entity partially funded by New York State tax dollars, the College will provide a designated public forum to third parties for the exercise of their free speech rights.  To comply with existing law, the College will assign resources to presentations by third parties, including staff time, for the management of the designated public forum and possibly using University Police or other administrative staff to provide for public safety of participants.  Reservations for the designated forum will be addressed on a first-come, first-served basis.

In implementing this policy, the College weighs competing obligations and responsibilities

     •   to meet its legal obligations as a public entity to provide a designated public forum for free speech by third parties,
     •   to meet audit and control responsibilities in managing New York State property under College jurisdiction,
     •   to provide for the orderly and safe operation of the College campus,
     •   to responsibly manage and allocate College resources in pursuit of its educational mission.

  • The College has determined specific time periods when the use of its campus or facilities, including outdoor spaces, are reserved exclusively for College related activities that are at the core of the primary educational mission of the College.  During these periods, no third party shall be permitted to reserve or use the designated public forum for free speech purposes:

     a.    during our student orientation days and opening weekends for the summer, fall and spring semesters;

     b.      during reading and examination periods as set forth in the then current academic calendar;

     c.       during graduation related activities and events including winter and spring commencement days;

     d.      during major campus-wide celebrations and events such as Quest, Family and Friends Weekend, and Honors Convocation.


A.      Designated Public Forum Location

The College has designated the following area as a public forum for third party free speech:

The south side of the recessed concrete surface in the academic quadbetween Hewitt Hall, Mahar Hall, and Lanigan Hall, commonly known as "The Sundial," not including the sidewalks surrounding The Sundial.(see map below)

The south side of The Sundial is one of the most highly trafficked areas on campus by students, faculty, staff and visitors.  No electronic amplification of sound is permitted in the academic quad, which includes The Sundial, due to the proximity of academic buildings in which classes are held.  The risk of interfering with classroom instruction is too great to allow for the use of electronic amplification methods.  Therefore, the use of electronically amplified sound is not permitted in the academic quad on class days from the time classes begin in the morning through the time that classes end in the evening.


A.      Application and Reservation Process

Third parties seeking to use the space designated as a public forum for third party free speech must complete a designated public forum

application and file the application with the Department of Campus Life three (3) business days before the date when the applicant wants to use the designated public forum space.  Completed applications should be sent or hand delivered to:

Department of Campus Life
Attn:  Ms. Holli Stone
135 Marano Campus Center
SUNY Oswego
Oswego, NY  13126

Applications received after 3 pm on a given business day shall be considered as having been received on the morning of the next business day.  The applicant assumes responsibility for proper and timely completion and delivery of an application to the Office of Campus Life.

The College shall review the application and respond to the applicant no later than the close of business on the third business day prior to the date the applicant wants to use the designated public forum.

     a.       if the application is completed fully and signed by the applicant, and the date and time is available for use, the College shall inform the applicant of its approval to use the designated forum on the date and time so requested. 

     b.      if the application is not complete and/or it is not signed, the College shall return the application to the applicant for completion.  The three (3) business days' time period will begin running again once the completed and signed application is received by the Office of Campus Life.

     c.       if the space is already reserved to its capacity for the date and time requested, or if the date and time requested is during a "blackout period" as defined above, the College shall inform the applicant of the same and offer the applicant the next available date and time for the use of the space.

     d.      The College shall not:

          1.        inquire as the nature or content of the free speech;

          2.       charge the applicant an application fee to reserve the designated public forum;

          3.       charge the applicant/third party for the use of the space;

          4.       impose insurance requirements on the applicant/third party; or

          5.       charge the applicant for any additional costs to the College that the College may incur due to the use of the space by the applicant/third party, such as security.

     e.      The applicant/third party shall:

          1.        Be responsible for any costs for parking on the campus;

          2.       Be responsible for picking up from the designated public forum any brochures, pamphlets, leaflets or other handouts or goods that the third party speaker brings to the campus to disseminate during his/her speech, and properly disposing of the same in public recycling or trash receptacles or taking them with him/her; or pay for reasonable costs to the College for clean-up; and

          3.       Not use megaphone or electronic equipment for the amplification of sound. 

The College reserves the right to terminate any use of the designated public forum in the event either the speaker or a member(s) of an audience engages in conduct that violates the SUNY Rules for the Maintenance of Public Order, adopted in accordance with Education Law Section 6430 and 8 NYCRR 535, in order to secure the orderly and operation of the Campus for the safety of the entire Campus Community.

Free Speech Public Forum Policy (PDF) 

Public Forum Application (PDF)

Thoughts on Free Speech