Campus News

Encampment on North Campus

(Photo by Dorothy Kozlowski/UGA)

The following ArchNews was sent this morning to all UGA faculty, staff and students:

The University of Georgia is firmly committed to the First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and expression. Over the course of this academic year, we have facilitated dozens of events in which members of our campus community and guest speakers have publicly expressed differing viewpoints through lectures, marches, vigils and protests.

These expressive activities are consistent with the University System of Georgia Board of Regents’ Policy on Freedom of Expression, which requires institutions to protect the rights of all students and employees “to share ideas and opinions, even those that some may find offensive.” For the most part, these activities have been conducted peacefully, without incident. When issues have arisen, they have been addressed appropriately by campus authorities.

The University’s commitment to the safety and security of our campus community is our foremost priority. While we must provide ample opportunity for protected expressive activities, we also have the right and duty to regulate the time, place and manner in which they occur. This morning’s encampment on the North Campus Quad crossed a line and violated our policies. Early this morning, without making a required reservation under our Freedom of Expression Policy, approximately 25 protesters began erecting tents and a barricade, blocking sidewalks and building entrances, and using amplified sound. Shortly thereafter, Student Affairs and University Police personnel established a dialogue with them to ensure awareness of applicable policies.

For decades, to protect health and safety, University of Georgia policy has expressly prohibited camping in outdoor areas of campus. In addition, those engaging in protest are prohibited from disrupting University activities inside and outside buildings, including classes. Accordingly, our policy expressly prohibits blocking sidewalks, ingress and egress from buildings, and use of amplified sound. Protesters were advised repeatedly, for more than an hour, that the tents and barricades they had put in place had to be removed and that they must comply with applicable policies. They were also given the opportunity by Student Affairs personnel to make a reservation and relocate to one of our centrally designated forums, but they refused. After multiple warnings that they would be arrested for trespass if they did not comply with our policies, at 8:30 a.m., UGA Police were left with no choice but to arrest those who refused to comply. Any students, faculty or staff members arrested could also face further disciplinary action by the University.

We remain grateful for the dedicated service of our Student Affairs team and University Police officers, who have worked tirelessly throughout the year to facilitate the safety of those who choose to exercise their right to peacefully protest on our campus. Anyone who feels threatened or who has experienced threats, harassment or discrimination is encouraged to contact the University’s Police Department and/or Equal Opportunity Office immediately.

Let us make it abundantly clear that while the University of Georgia staunchly supports freedom of expression, we will not cede control of our campus to groups that refuse to abide by University policy and threaten the safety of those who live, work and study here. The University of Georgia remains an institution where ideas, viewpoints, and scholarship can be openly expressed and debated.