Editor’s Note: This story was updated on Nov. 27 with new policy guidelines for posting around campus.
Even with all the electronic and digital modes of communicating these days, the University of Utah is still home to dozens of bulletin boards.
But you can’t just plaster all those corkboards with leaflets without permission. There’s a process for that.
Signs, notices and posters are covered by the university’s speech policy (V. Signs, Literature and Structures). Posted fliers can be notices of meetings and events, expressions of opinions about social and political topics, or simply art. They may express challenging, and even offensive, ideas. But they cannot include obscene content, be defamatory, or incite lawlessness.
The First Amendment limits speech by imposing “time, place and manner” restrictions, but those limitations cannot be unreasonably used to deny speech on the basis of content, explains Jason Ramirez, associate vice president and dean of students.
“As a public institution, the University of Utah preserves and protects the free speech rights of all members of our campus community,” Ramirez said. “Having free speech means we are able to have a free press, a democratic process, and most importantly, diversity of thought without governmental regulation. These inherent rights, when coupled with our ability to gather, create the very foundations our freedoms were born from.”
“With this said, there are boundaries to those protections: You may not incite violence or use speech that threatens bodily harm, engage in hate crimes, or infringe on the free speech rights of others,” he added. “All of the same free expression guidelines apply to posting signs and fliers across campus.”
- Only individuals or registered organizations in the campus community can post fliers or posters.
- The university entity, group or sponsor must be clearly identified on the posting.
- University trademarks and brands may not be used without permission.
- Only one sign, notice or poster affiliated with a specific event is permitted on a single bulletin board at any one time. Up to a total of three signs, notices, or posters authored or sponsored by the same organization or member of the University community are permitted on a single bulletin board at any one time.
- Signs, notices or posters are encouraged to be on an 8.5-inch-by-11-inch piece of paper. All signs, notices, or posters must be smaller than 8.5 inches by 14 inches.
- A sign, notice or poster may not cover another sign, notice or poster.
- All fliers must be dated. (Note: Expiration dates stamped on Union Building flyers do not indicate university approval of the content of the posting.)
- Signs, posters and fliers may not be posted on trees, buildings, walls or other structures.
- Messages cannot be written, painted or chalked on university property or on the personal property of others.
- The University may remove any sign, notice, or poster that does not meet these guidelines or for which the expiration date has passed.
- Academic and administrative departments that maintain bulletin boards or kiosks are encouraged to apply these guidelines to the posting of signs, notices, or posters on their bulletin boards or kiosks.
Groups that follow these rules may still post fliers and signs that are offensive to identities, beliefs and cultures of other campus community members. While obnoxious, divisive and simplistic, those statements do not violate the university’s free speech guidelines as outlined by state and federal laws.
“We understand many technically legal postings can cause harm and divide our campus community,” Ramirez said, “but we believe the best response is more speech to combat and defend against those offensive ideas.”
Union staff will regularly remove expired fliers and signs and those that do not comply with these rules from more than 60 bulletin boards around campus. To learn more about free speech on campus, visit the Office of the Dean of Students’ freedom of expression webpage.
Union Building rules for posting are here. Colleges and departments may have unique rules for posting in their buildings. Check with individual units to learn more.