Free Expression Guidelines for Fall 2020

Photo of Blair Courtyard facing Foulke Arch

The following guidelines are intended to support members of the University community and guests in practicing their right to free expression, while also balancing public health protocols and University policies specific to COVID-19. Princeton’s commitment to free speech and open expression and the policies that support that commitment remain intact as they are outlined on the Protests and Free Expression website, and in Rights, Rules, Responsibilities. The following modifications have been made in the interest of public health and with respect to hosting virtual programs:

Guidelines for In-Person Demonstrations & Protests

  • In-person demonstrations and protests must be held outdoors.
  • Face coverings or masks are to be worn at all times.
  • Whenever practicable, social distancing should be maintained, with six feet of space between participants.

Guidelines for Virtual Demonstrations & Protests

  • When preparing to host a virtual program, sponsors are encouraged to consult the following University resources:
  • With respect to free expression, virtual programs are expected to follow the same guidelines as those held in-person.
    • Individuals and groups may not disrupt a program.
    • University policy regarding signage and posters apply to virtual backgrounds, backdrops, projected photos, and annotation features.
    • Program sponsors should open the program with an explanation for attendees that addresses: program format; use of recording features; anticipated timeline; user functionality and attendee engagement opportunities, such as a Questions & Answers portion; ground rules regarding online respect; and, the University’s commitment to free speech and an open exchange of ideas.
      • These considerations can also be posted as a message that participants see upon arrival to a Zoom Waiting Room.
      • Understanding there may be more questions than time allows, program sponsors may consider combining answers in thematic responses. In addition, sponsors are encouraged to respond following the conclusion of the program, assuming contact information associated with the question is provided. Alternatively, those answers may be posted to a central and accessible source, or as an appendix to a distributed transcription of the original program.
      • Sponsors intending to record a program should make that clear in promotional materials. At the start of the program, a reference noting the program is being recorded, along with information as to where the recording will be made available for viewing and distribution, is expected. Sponsors should also consider enabling Zoom’s recording notifications feature.
    • Program sponsors may not suppress or restrict free expression simply because the ideas put forth are disagreeable or contrary to that of the sponsor, moderator, speaker, or panelist.
      • This includes, but is not limited to, muting, disabling video, and barring or removing attendees from virtual participation.
        • Limited exceptions include a sustained disruption that interferes with the regular and continuing function of the program, and violations of University policy specific to signage, posters, and Respect for Others. For instances involving sustained disruptions, it is expected that individuals in violation of University policy receive at least one warning before such action is taken.
        • This is not to say that all programs must be open to the general public or even all members of the University community. Any University organization has the right to restrict attendance at any of its meetings to members and their invited guests; nonmembers have no normal right of access to such activities. (RRR 1.4.6)
    • Program sponsors should consider when using a webinar format may be most appropriate, particularly when the potential for malicious behavior is expected. Though not as interactive, webinars are able to accommodate a greater number of attendees, while also reducing  the potential for sustained disruptions and instances of online abuse, including “Zoombombing.”
    • The Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students is able to provide additional support and guidance to program sponsors. All members of the University community are encouraged to contact Dean Jarrett Fisher when planning a protest, demonstration, or sponsoring a program that may be controversial.
  • All members of the University community are expected to maintain an atmosphere of respect and inclusion in online spaces.
    • The Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity provides recommendations and best practices to prepare for online engagement and learning, as well as tools to help manage instances of abuse in the moment in the resource: Addressing Online Abuse Tip Sheet