Law School Speech Policy

The Law School is a place of rich exchange and reflective discourse. We are a community of diverse perspectives, committed to values of respect, professionalism, active listening, and intellectual engagement that is at once rigorous and generous. As both a legal institution and a caring and diverse community of equals, we seek to listen to each other and to engage in reasoned exchange. Our goal need not be agreement but rather pursuit of better understanding and, in the tradition of the adversarial process, ultimately of truth.

In addition to our institutional values, the U.S. Constitution, the Virginia Constitution, and Virginia statutory law prohibit abridgement of the freedom of speech, and University policy prohibits disruption of speaking events.

Events at the Law School can sometimes provoke controversy, dissent, or protest. Protest and dissent can be important forms of First Amendment activity, as are scheduled speaking events and audience questions and participation. The Law School seeks to ensure that these expressive activities do not interfere with one another and to safeguard the rights of all parties. The Law School also has a duty to protect the safety and security of persons and property and to maintain normal operations for students, faculty, staff, and guests.

In light of these commitments and obligations, the Law School welcomes speaking events and counterspeech consistent with the following policies:

  1. Protest, dissent, or other counterspeech may not interfere with a speaker’s ability to speak, a listener’s ability to see or hear, or the ability of an event to proceed as scheduled. 
  2. Neither scheduled events nor counterspeech may disrupt normal Law School operations, including student, academic, and extracurricular activities; other scheduled events; pedestrian and vehicular traffic; and the study or work environment for students, faculty, and staff. 
  3. Neither scheduled events nor counterspeech may jeopardize the physical safety of any person or the integrity of property belonging to the University or any other person or entity. Using or threatening force or violence, such as defacing a sign or assaulting a speaker or a member of the audience, is prohibited.
  4. The Law School or University may undertake advance security assessments or institute content-neutral procedures for specific events, including designating areas for protest or setting other time-place-manner requirements to facilitate compatibility with normal operations and safety and security. Events and counterspeech must comply with any content-neutral procedures instituted for a specific event. In addition, some events at the Law School are open only to members of the Law School community.
  5. Individuals who violate these policies may be asked to leave the premises and may be subject to penalties, including Law School disciplinary action (e.g., through the Academic and Professional Standards Committee), University disciplinary action (e.g., through the University Judiciary Committee), arrest, or criminal charges. For students, Law School or University disciplinary action may include oral admonition, written reprimand, suspension, or expulsion, any of which may be reportable to bar authorities (e.g., as part of a character and fitness review).

While all Law School community members and guests have obligations under these policies, enforcement of these policies falls to the University Police Department (UPD) and Law School and University administrators. Individuals who observe potential violations of these policies should contact a Law School or University administrator. In case of an emergency, call 911 immediately.

For more details, students should contact Student Affairs, and others should contact Diddy Morris, in the Dean's Office.

Both speech and counterspeech are important parts of legal, academic, and civic discourse. The Law School seeks to preserve both in accordance with its obligations as an institution and its values as a community.

Fundamentals of the First Amendment and Law School Policies on Free Speech

Professor Leslie Kendrick ’06 discusses First Amendment policies, and the law and norms of free speech in legal education. She spoke as part of the Class of 2026 orientation.