The First Amendment and You

Free Speech

UC San Diego, as a public university, is dedicated to the dissemination of a wide range of information and ideas, and to upholding the principles of free speech and expression.

We seek to educate our community about what the First Amendment truly means and how it applies to our campus. Some key points to consider:

  • The First Amendment is one of the founding principles of the United States. It provides five essential freedoms: religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition. College campuses provide settings where these freedoms, especially freedom of speech, can be exercised. The First Amendment reads as follows:

"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."

  • Courts have recognized that First Amendment principles acquire a special significance in the university setting, where the free and unfettered interplay of competing views is essential to the institution's educational mission. The search for knowledge cannot be accomplished without the foundation of free speech and academic freedom.
  • There is no legal definition of “hate speech.” Hate speech is protected under the First Amendment. As Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., put it: “if there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other, it is the principle of free thought—not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate.”
  • As a public university, UC San Diego cannot stop someone from speaking merely because some, many, most, or even all members of the campus community dislike the speaker’s ideas.
  • Each person has the right to exercise his or her own free speech rights to oppose ideologies with which they disagree.
  • Students, faculty and staff are all able to condemn — but not stifle — offensive speech by holding protests, teach-ins and counter-events as long, as they are lawful.

To learn more, visit Freedom of Speech and Expression 101 or our Frequently Asked Questions page.