Freedom of Speech and Expression Policy

  1. General Statement
  2. Definitions
  3. Role
  4. Public Forums
  5. Protected Activities
  6. Non-protected Activities
  7. Student Organizations
  8. Student Government
  9. Complaint Procedure

1. General Statement

The College, as a public institution of higher education, establishes this policy to comply with the laws of the state of Iowa and the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and to protect speech and expression.

The primary function of an institution of higher education is the discovery, improvement, transmission, and dissemination of knowledge by means of research, teaching, discussion, and debate. To fulfill this function, the College shall strive to ensure the fullest degree of intellectual freedom and free expression allowed under the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. This policy is made and published by the College to prohibit intellectual restrictions and penalties based on protected speech, including political speech, to the fullest extent of the first Amendment of the United States Constitution.

Annual training shall be provided to the College's students, faculty, and staff on free speech and First Amendment protections.

2. Definitions

"Benefits" means recognition, registration, use of facilities for meetings or speaking purposes, use of channels of communication, and access to funding sources.

"Campus Community" means students, administrators, faculty, and staff at a public institution of higher education and guests invited to a public institution of higher education by the institution's students, administrators, faculty, or staff.

"Materially and substantially disrupts" means when a person, with the intent to or with knowledge of doing so, engages in violent or other disorderly conduct that significantly hinders a previously scheduled or reserved activity occurring on college grounds, buildings, and facilities. "Materially and substantially disrupts" does not include conduct that is protected under the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

"Outdoor areas of campus" means the generally accessible outside areas of campus where students, administrators, faculty, and staff at a public institution of higher education are commonly allowed, such as grassy areas, walkways, or other similar common areas. This does not include areas outside health care facilities, veterinary medicine facilities, facilities and outdoor areas used by the institution’s athletic program(s) or team(s), or other outdoor areas where access is restricted to a majority of the campus community.

"Student" means an individual who is admitted and enrolled on a full-time or part-time basis at a public institution of higher education.

"Student organization" means a group officially recognized at or officially registered by the College, or a group seeking such official recognition or official registration, comprised of students who are admitted and in attendance at the College and who receive, or are seeking to receive, student organization benefits or privileges through the College.

3. Role

The proper role of an institution of higher education is to encourage diversity of thoughts, ideas, and opinions and to encourage, within the bounds of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, the peaceful, respectful, and safe exercise of First Amendment rights.

It is not the proper role of the College to shield individuals from speech protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, which may include ideas and opinions the individual finds unwelcome, disagreeable, or even offensive.

Students and faculty have the freedom to discuss any problem that presents itself, assemble, and engage in spontaneous expressive activity on campus, within the bounds of established principles of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, and subject to reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions that are consistent with established First Amendment principles.

The outdoor areas of campus of an institution of higher education are public forums, open on the same terms to any invited speaker subject to reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions that are consistent with established principles of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

4. Public Forums

The outdoor areas of campus are deemed public forums. The College may maintain and enforce clear, published, reasonable viewpoint-neutral time, place, and manner restrictions that are narrowly tailored in furtherance of a significant institutional interest, but shall allow members of the campus community to engage in protective expressive activities consistent with established principles of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. If the College places restrictions, it shall provide ample alternative means of expression.

Except as provided in this policy, and subject to reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions, the College shall not designate any area of campus a free-speech zone or otherwise create policies restricting expressive activities to a particular outdoor area of campus.

Nothing in this policy shall be construed to grant individuals the right to engage in conduct that intentionally, materially, and substantially disrupts the expressive activity of a person or student organization if the College has reserved space in an outdoor area of campus for the activity in accordance with this policy.

5. Protected Activities

The campus community shall be freely permitted to engage in noncommercial expressive activity in outdoor areas of campus, subject to reasonable time, place and manner restrictions, as long as the campus community member’s conduct is lawful, does not impede other’s access to a facility or use of walkways, and does not disrupt the function of the College. The College may designate other areas of campus available for use by the campus community. All access to designated areas will be granted on a viewpoint-neutral basis.

Protected activities include but are not limited to any lawful oral or written means by which members of the campus community may communicate ideas, including but limited to all forms of peaceful assembly, protests, speeches, including invited speakers, distribution of literature, circulating petitions, and publishing, including publishing or streaming on an internet site, audio or video recorded in outdoor areas of campus.

Protected activities shall also include the right of student expression in a counter demonstration held in an outdoor area of campus, as long as the conduct at the counter demonstration is not unlawful, does not materially and substantially prohibit the free expression of others, or impede other’s access to a facility or use of walkways.

If any employee of the College is found to have knowingly restricted the protected speech of a student, or otherwise penalizes a student for protected speech or activities, the employee is subject to discipline, up to and including termination under the applicable policies, procedures, and Iowa law based on the totality of the facts.

In all instances, faculty and staff including extracurricular coaches may support student's First Amendment rights without fear of discipline by the College.

6. Non-protected Activities

The College may prohibit, limit, or restrict expression and/or any expressive activities that are not otherwise protected by The Constitution of the United States. Non-protected activities include, but are not limited to the following:

  1. A threat of serious harm and expression directed or likely directed to provoke imminent unlawful actions;
  2. Harassment, including but not limited to expression which is so severe, pervasive, and subjectively and objectively offensive that the expression unreasonably interferes with an individual’s access to educational opportunities or benefits provided by this College and/or violates the College’s anti-harassment policies;
  3. Violence;
  4. Defamation, including libel and slander;
  5. Obscenity;
  6. Inciting others to commit crimes or engage in unlawful conduct; or
  7. Unlawful behavior or actions.

7. Student Organizations

The College shall not deny benefits or privileges available to student organizations based on the viewpoint or expression of the viewpoint of a student organization or its members protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. In addition, the College will not deny any benefits or privileges to a student organization based on the organization’s requirement that its leaders agree to and support the organization’s beliefs as interpreted and applied by the organization, and to further the organization’s mission.

8. Student Government

Student Government organizations must comply with the requirements of this policy and not infringe upon speech by a member of the College campus community protected under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Nothing in this policy shall prohibit student government organizations from enforcing content-neutral time, place, and manner restriction and/or reasonable rules to ensure the orderly operation of meetings, so long as those rules are content-neutral and consistent with the requirements of the policy.

9. Complaint Procedure

If a member of the college community believes they have been aggrieved by a violation of this policy, the member shall follow the complaint policy and procedure. The policy, procedure and complaint form are available at: https://www.nicc.edu/complaint/. In the event the matter is not satisfactorily resolved through the appropriate complaint process, or otherwise as provided under Iowa law, the aggrieved member of the campus community may file a complaint with the governing body (the College Board) not later than one year after the day of the alleged policy violation.

Retaliation against any member of the campus community who files such a complaint is prohibited, and any founded instances of retaliation is subject to discipline or sanctions.