Expressive Activity on Campus
Texas A&M University is a public university. As such, faculty and staff are government actors (also known as state actors). The U.S. Constitution and, in particular, First Amendment rights (freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, petition), among others, are guaranteed when government actors (faculty and staff) interact with individuals (students).
The free expression of ideas and the right to associate are American values fiercely protected by the Supreme Court. The First Amendment right to free expression and association at public universities has been explored in classic case law that came into being largely as a result of court cases related to the student unrest of the 1960s. These constitutional issues are sometimes difficult for the general public to comprehend because there is often an expectation that university administrators can control student speech and control or prevent student association.
This public perception is often grounded in the false belief that students do not have constitutional rights or that they do not enjoy these rights in their roles as college students. Nothing could be further from the truth at public institutions.
Content-based (a.k.a., viewpoint or opinion) restrictions on the exercise of free expression have been judged by the courts to be unconstitutional. Nevertheless, these free expressions rights are not absolute. Reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions apply to free speech and student protest issues when there is a compelling government interest to support their strategies to balance these student rights against the right of others to attend class, move about campus, and to avoid disruptions.