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Freedom of Expression

In compliance with §23.1-401.1 of the Code of Virginia, William & Mary is committed to creating an environment in which all members of the community and invited guests are encouraged to speak freely and express themselves on university property. Consistent with the university’s mission to “create a learning environment where teaching, research and public service are linked through programs designed to preserve, transmit, and expand knowledge,” a commitment to free expression is essential to fostering open discourse, argumentation, speaking, listening, learning and exploration of ideas.

This website is designed to assemble the university’s policies, protected rights of individuals, and process for reporting incidents of disruption of such speech in one consolidated page.

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Policies & Regulations Relevant to Free Speech
Materials Relevant to Protected Rights & Responsibilities
  • Faculty Handbook
    • Section I. Statement of Rights & Responsibilities ensures that students, faculty and administrators shall enjoy all rights, privileges and immunities guaranteed to every citizen of the United States and the Commonwealth of Virginia.
      • Among the basic rights are freedom of expression and belief, freedom of association and peaceful assembly…
    • Section III. A. Academic Freedom and Professional Ethics safeguards a faculty member’s ability to “encourage free discussion, inquiry, and expression” in the course of teaching and learning.  Additionally, “(F)aculty members are also entitled to their political rights and should be free from institution censorship or discipline for exercising them”. 
  • Student Handbook
    • Section II. Rights, Privileges and Immunities states in part that the members of the College community, as individuals, shall enjoy all rights, privileges, and immunities guaranteed every citizen of the United States and the commonwealth of Virginia, including:
      • Basic Rights: Among the basic rights are freedom of expression and belief, freedom of association and peaceful assembly…
      • C.2.  Right to Organize:  The right to hold public meetings, to invite speakers of his/her own choosing to campus, to post notices, to engage in peaceful, orderly demonstrations within reasonably and impartially applied rules (see Use of Campus Facilities Policy above)
    • Section III. A. Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship articulates in part that students have the right to:
      • “discuss freely, inquire and express opinions inside the classroom”
      • “hear and study unpopular and controversial views on intellectual and public issues”
      • “expect that information about his/her views, beliefs and political associations which an instructor acquires in the course of his/her work as a teacher, advisor or counselor of the student be held in confidence.”
Process for Reporting Disruption of Constitutionally Protected Speech
  • Online Report Form for community members or invited guests
Annual Report

The Code of Virginia requires that all public institutions of higher education publish an annual report regarding institutional compliance with § 23.1-401.1. View the 2022 report (pdf).