Free Speech Rights on JMU’s Campus

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” –U.S. Constitution

In lieu of the graphic pro-life demonstration taking place on campus the last few days, there has been a lot of talk about free speech on campus. The rights of a U.S. citizen are protected under national, state, and local laws.  Being at a public university there are also a set of policies and guidelines that govern the actions of individuals on the campus.  As long as an individual/group is not posing a threat to safety, are upholding the laws on all levels, and upholding the overall mission of JMU (which is to educate), then they are allowed to be here.

That being said, Madison Union is responsible for ensuring that the Commons space; which has been determined by the university to be the designated location for free speech activity, is maintained properly.  Outside individuals/organizations are encouraged to pre-register so that public safety can be notified, as well as information about the event can be recorded.  This is not required, but highly encouraged.  The goal of the process is to be “fair and consistent” according to Joe Urgo, Associate Director of Madison Unions.

If at any point an individual on campus feels as though their safety is being threatened, JMU public safety should be notified.

The official statement released by Madison Unions regarding the current activity on the commons:

Practical Statement Regarding


This is a Free Speech activity.  The University Commons has been determined by the university to be the designated location for free speech activity, because the location is least likely to interfere with the university’s primary mission to educate students.  It is not sponsored by, nor endorsed or discredited by, the University beyond the extent of supporting and upholding the law regarding Free Speech.

Further inquiry can be directed to Joe Urgo, University Unions,, 568-6725.

While the current events have sparked controversy, the resulting conversation is what the founding fathers, such as James Madison himself, had in mind when they created our national Constitution.  The students of JMU have acted admirably in responding to the situation by continuing the conversation in the proper forums and acting in a respectful manner.


2 thoughts on “Free Speech Rights on JMU’s Campus

    1. sgajmu Post author

      The word “designated” here means an area in which students will not feel imposed upon. For example, dorm buildings, academic buildings, etc. are areas JMU has deemed private for the protection of the student body. Individuals/organizations are not limited to speak on the Commons, it is merely the preferred area that they can reserve. The campus on the whole is essentially a forum for free speech, the university is simply the most interested in upholding the safety of its students and community. We hope this helps clarify.


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