Student Protest and Activism

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Student Protest and Activism

Student Protest and Activism

Rowan University is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusiveness while upholding individuals’ rights as protected by the Constitution’s First Amendment. We anticipate that there will be protests or demonstrations on campus, therefore, we have outlined a few concrete measures to help all students, faculty, and staff engage constructively with one another around difficult and controversial issues, as well to ensure everyone is informed and remains safe. We also want to assure you that violence will not be tolerated prior to, during, or after protests or demonstrations.

The Division of Student Life and Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Rowan University holds that student activism plays an important role in students’ personal, academic, and leadership development. Through activism, students learn to advocate for their values and beliefs, values that are sometimes newly discovered through their studies and co-curricular endeavors at the university. Activism offers students an opportunity to contextualize and apply the academic study of pressing social issues and exercise their freedom of expression. Holding an organized, thoughtful demonstration also challenges students to hone a variety of leadership skills, such as diplomacy, responsibility, accountability, motivation, communication, and coalition-building, to name a few. Student activism, in short, can play a vital component in Rowan’s mission to being inclusive, agile, and response.


Protesters on Campus/First Amendment Rights

Under the U.S. Constitution, Rowan University is obligated as a public institution to allow freedom of expression, but we do not condone or endorse any speech that is discriminatory, harassing, or otherwise interferes with the rights of others.

Hateful speech, like all speech, is protected by the First Amendment provided the speech does not incite immediate violence. That does not mean, however, that hateful speech must be tolerated. Hate speech can still cause real harm. Rowan reserves the right to engage in educational dialogue and action for behavior that is not consistent with the code of conduct. 

Although some people may feel anger, resentment, frustration, or discouragement in response to hateful speech, those feelings alone are insufficient grounds to limit that speech. An effective response to hateful speech is exercising your own speech in ways that do not infringe upon speech of other individuals, such as ignoring the hateful speech, providing direct support to targeted individuals or groups, and/or participating in educational dialogues with your faculty and peers.

Any demonstration or protest on the property of Rowan University that interferes with the educational function of the institution, or in which violence, property damage, or other unlawful behavior occurs is unlawful and subject to being addressed by designated university officials and/or law enforcement officers. 

The Rowan University Office of Public Safety encourages organizers to communicate with University Administration in advance so we may better provide for the safety of participants, share important information, and help ensure the success of the event.

Adapted from the University of Michigan

What are my rights if I choose to organize or attend a protest?

Please refer to Rowan University's Free Speech and Peaceful Assembly PolicyYour rights are strongest in public forums like sidewalks, and in front of government buildings, as long as you are not blocking access or interfering with operations. No permit is necessary to march on public sidewalks, as long as car and pedestrian traffic is not obstructed. If you do not have a permit, police may ask you to move to the side of a sidewalk to let others pass or for other safety reasons.

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 Dean of Students, Student Life staff, or Public Safety, for those seeking to express views that differ from those expressed by the event organizers, to ensure that all views can be expressed.


Why are there police officers present at protests, rallies and marches?

The role of police at protests is to protect members of the Rowan community as well those visiting the campus and campus property. They will ensure your right to protest as well as the safety of all those attending the event. Violence, property damage, or other unlawful behavior may be addressed by designated university officials and/or law enforcement officers. 


Responding to an unlawful protest or demonstration

If a demonstration or protest becomes violent or other unlawful behavior occurs, please:

  • Dial 911
  • Follow all instructions from law enforcement officials
  • Avoid provoking or obstructing demonstrators
  • Avoid the area of disturbance if you are outside
  • Shelter in place if you are indoors and stay away from doors and windows
  • Secure your area (lock doors, safes, files, vital records, and expensive equipment) in case demonstrators enter

If you need additional support, you can call the Wellness Center, 856-256-4333

If you feel unsafe, you can call Public Safety at 856-256-4922