This post is adapted from a message sent to the campus community on Jan. 10 from Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Darnell Hunt and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Monroe Gorden, Jr.
In a diverse community such as ours, part of learning and growth comes from engagement with viewpoints we may not agree with or readily understand. While this may be uncomfortable, it also helps us sharpen our thinking, weigh different approaches and consider new ways of looking at an issue. Ultimately, it advances truth, knowledge and understanding.
One of the ways in which we are exposed to such differing viewpoints is through events hosted on the UCLA campus. Now that a large number of in-person events and programs are once again taking place on our campus, we would like to take the time to proactively discuss how our institution’s commitment to the free exchange of ideas extends to campus events and to share how free expression aligns with UCLA’s values and obligations as a public institution.
In this message, we offer information about the policies and principles that govern on-campus events.
UCLA has long encouraged Registered Campus Organizations (RCOs) — including student groups certified by the Office of Student Organizations, Leadership & Engagement (SOLE) — and other event organizers to supplement the university’s curricular experience by hosting events on our campus, some of which feature external speakers and groups. The campus views this as part of our educational and public service mission.
Through a process outlined on the Events Office website, UCLA makes facilities and certain services available to RCOs that may wish to host events on campus. These procedures help promote event safety, aid compliance with relevant laws and policies, prevent events from interfering with regular campus operations, and help us to protect the free expression rights of Bruins.
Each year, RCOs and other organizers host hundreds of events, the vast majority of which take place without controversy or incident. Yet with more than 1,450 RCOs representing a broad spectrum of political and ideological perspectives, situations arise in which speakers present views that may be disagreeable or even offensive to some members of our community.
As a public institution, UCLA is prohibited by the Constitution from banning speech or other forms of expression based on the content or viewpoint of the speaker. Campus policy permits RCOs to invite speakers to campus and provides access to campus venues for that purpose. As outlined in UCLA Policy 862, Interim Major Events Not Sponsored by a University Unit, UCLA cannot take away that right or withdraw those resources based on the views of a speaker — even in cases in which the speaker may present offensive or hateful ideas. Doing so would violate the First Amendment.
While we uphold this important right, this does not mean that UCLA endorses the views of any event organizer or speaker. In fact, there have been and will be instances in which the views of organizers and speakers run counter to UCLA’s core values.
Our university is unequivocally committed to freedom of expression, and we fully support the right and ability of RCOs to host speakers and events of their choice. We are also deeply committed to campus values of diversity, tolerance and inclusion. These two commitments are fundamental to UCLA’s position as a place of open inquiry and learning — but they can also create tension when one person’s speech causes concern or deeply offends another person or community.
While RCOs have the right to host events and invite speakers to our campus, they also have the responsibility to recognize the impact of an event upon their fellow campus community members. We urge students to host speakers and events that address controversial topics thoughtfully and respectfully, without resorting to insult or bias, in line with our Principles of Community.
Please see the below set of Frequently Asked Questions for more information on student-sponsored events, laws, and policies at UCLA.
Why does UCLA host on-campus events that may be deemed controversial or unpopular?
As a public university, UCLA is committed to free speech as a fundamental feature of our democracy and a crucial dimension of UCLA’s institutional and academic culture. As outlined in UCLA Policy 862, which governs Major Events, student organizations have a Constitutionally protected right to host events on the campus. UCLA staff review RCO and other Event Organizer requests to host events on a “content-neutral” basis — that is, the university must make its decisions without regard to the event’s subject matter. UCLA cannot turn down or cancel a student-sponsored event because it may present offensive or hateful ideas.
How are security and safety measures for events determined?
UCLA conducts security assessments to evaluate potential risks and security needs of Major Events. As a result of these assessments, recommended security measures may include adjusting the venue, date, or time of the event; providing additional law enforcement; imposing controls or security checkpoints; and requiring increased ticketing measures. These determinations are made in a content-neutral manner.
Who approves these events?
The Office of Student Organizations, Leadership & Engagement (SOLE) reviews and approves Major Events organized by RCOs, and the UCLA Events Office reviews and approves Major Events organized by non-RCOs and other Event Organizers. The time, place and manner of the proposed Major Event depends on UCPD’s security assessment and recommendations for safety and security.
Who pays for these events?
Generally, student organizations have two options for covering the costs of Major Events. RCOs may apply for university funding — which comes from compulsory campus-based student fees — to pay for a conference or an event if it is open to the general campus community or public. Alternatively, RCOs may forgo university funding and cover the costs of the event entirely on their own. Events sponsored by other Event Organizers that do not receive university funding are considered external or private.
The university requires RCOs hosting events to work with Student Affairs and the UCLA Police Department to safeguard the safety and well-being of all participants. UCLA will not charge RCOs for security costs deemed necessary by the university to ensure safety and security.
Who decides who is invited to these events?
Under UC Policy PACAOS-70, events hosted by RCOs must be open to the entire campus community if they are supported by university funding, which in the case of student events comes from compulsory campus-based student fees. Registered campus organizations also may host events where the organizers determine who is permitted to attend if the event is not supported by compulsory campus-based student fees.