Policy on Public Demonstrations

Effective June 10, 2024

I. Purpose

Chautauqua Institution supports the freedom of all its patrons, visitors, and students to express their opinions and encourages the respectful exchange of ideas on its grounds. We exist to explore the important religious, social and political issues of our times in lived community and the Institution is committed to the principle that the right to speak applies equally to everyone, regardless of their viewpoint. Just as every member of our community has this right, they also have a corresponding responsibility not to interfere with the rights of others to speak, listen, and learn. Consistent with its Rules & Regulations (the “Rules”), the Institution is committed to ensuring that all members of the community have a safe and supportive environment in which to engage in sometimes difficult and emotionally charged exchanges of opinion. This policy is designed to clearly articulate the parameters the Institution uses to ensure that expressions of opinion in the form of demonstrations embody the sense of lived community and respect for difference that is central to the Institution’s mission. 

II. Scope

This policy applies year-round and to anyone present on Chautauqua Institution’s grounds. Except for privately owned homes and businesses, and a federal post office, the Institution grounds are its private property. The First Amendment does not give any person the right to engage in free-speech activities on private property unless the owner has given express permission to use the property for speech. This policy contemplates the conditions under which Chautauqua Institution will permit demonstrations on its private property. 

III. Definitions

Demonstration: An individual or group of people coming together for an event of public expression. 

Demonstration Area: A space designated by Chautauqua Institution in which an approved demonstration is permitted.  

Discrimination or Harassment: Chautauqua Institution, as an employer, complies with federal and state laws and our policies preventing discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Discrimination or harassment occurs when an employee is subject to adverse action (even a single instance) based on protected characteristics, or an intersection of protected characteristics, as defined by the Title VII Civil Rights Act or New York Human Rights Laws.  Discrimination or harassment of a targeted individual or group may result in a hostile work environment if the individual or group must endure the behavior to maintain their employment or if the discrimination or harassment is pervasive enough that a reasonable person would find it intimidating or abusive. 

Hate Speech: For purposes of this policy, Chautauqua Institution bases its definition on the United Nations definition of hate speech, defining it as any kind of communication in speech, writing or behavior, that attacks or uses abusive or discriminatory language with reference to a person or a group on the basis of who they are, including their religion, ethnicity, nationality, race, color, descent, gender, sexual orientation, disability or other identity factor. 

Workplace Bullying: Refers to repeated, unreasonable actions of individuals (or a group) directed towards an employee (or a group of employees), which are intended to intimidate, degrade, humiliate, or undermine or which create a risk to the health, safety, or well-being of the employee(s). Bullying behavior creates feelings of defenselessness and injustice in the target and undermines an individual’s right to dignity at work. 

IV. Policy Statement and Details

The right to express one’s views is the cornerstone of our community. To that end, this policy facilitates the safe conduct of demonstrations on Institution property. 


Unapproved demonstrations are not permitted. Anyone planning a demonstration will need written permission from the Institution. If permission to demonstrate is granted, the Institution will limit hours and will designate a specific space (“Demonstration Area”) for each permitted demonstration. The Institution will take appropriate action to ensure that counter demonstrations remain physically separated.  

To ensure safety and limit potential interference with normal Institution activities, demonstrations will not be permitted in areas outside of the Demonstration Area or outside agreed upon hours. Constructing, erecting or affixing tents, tables, signs or other physical elements is not permitted, though demonstrators may carry signs as long as the signs are not hate speech. Procedures for how to request permission to demonstrate are attached as Appendix 1. The limits placed on any demonstration are at the Institution’s discretion and are not appealable.  

Requests to demonstrate must be received at least two working days before any planned demonstration to ensure the safety of the Institution community. Requests will be evaluated by a committee formed by the Institution president consisting of between three and five officers. In evaluating requests, the committee will consider: 

  • whether the proposed demonstration can be safely conducted; 
  • whether the proposed demonstration would violate laws or policies for employer prevention of discrimination, harassment, and/or hostile work environment; 
  • whether the demonstration planners have engaged in hate speech or can reasonably be expected to engage in hate speech at the demonstration;  
  • whether the proposed demonstration would constitute bullying for a particular individual inconsistent with the Institution’s shared value of “dignity and contributions of all people”; 
  • whether the proposed demonstration would interfere with planned Institution or community group activities; and 
  • the ability of the demonstration’s planners to keep the demonstration respectful and within the parameters set for it. 

In evaluating requests, the committee will not consider the Institution’s stance on or its members’ personal agreement or disagreement with the viewpoint that will be expressed by the demonstration, except to the extent the viewpoint may constitute hate speech, discrimination/harassment/hostile work environment, or bullying. 


Demonstrations that are not approved, that violate Institution Rules & Regulations, or that go beyond the registered Demonstration Area or permitted timeframe will violate this policy. Advertising of demonstrations prior to approval is also a violation. The demonstrations must not impede the ongoing operations and programs of the Institution. Violations of this policy may result in sanctions, depending on the seriousness of the violation. Sanctions may include revocation of entry and other privileges. Sanctions can be imposed by the Institution’s executive vice president or general counsel and may be appealed to the Institution president. Disciplinary action for students or artists affiliated with any of the Institution’s schools or programs will be determined by the director of the program in consultation with the executive officer in charge of that area, and may include immediate removal from the grounds, revocation of any housing arrangements, and/or cancellation of any scholarships.  

Demonstrations that remain peaceful and nondisruptive may continue for the approved duration. Demonstrations that become unsafe or disruptive may be dispersed at the sole discretion of the general counsel or executive vice president, based on a recommendation from the Institution’s Safety & Security team. Efforts to disperse a crowd utilizing Institution Safety & Security staff will be made if safe to do so prior to calling law enforcement. However, the Institution will call law enforcement to handle dispersion if it is determined necessary to keep demonstrators, staff and/or patrons safe. 

V. Responsibilities

A committee of three to five officers are responsible for approving planned demonstrations. The committee reserves the option to invite contact person(s) for a conversation to discuss logistics or safety concerns or request additional information in writing deemed necessary to evaluate the demonstration request. Delays on the part of the contact person may impact whether the committee has sufficient information to evaluate the request, and therefore lead to a denial of the request. 

The Chief of Campus Safety & Security or their designate is responsible for: 

  • advising executive leadership as to whether a proposed demonstration can be approved as safe; 
  • making best efforts to disperse violative demonstrations before calling law enforcement, when it is safe to do so; and 
  • advising the executive vice president or general counsel on whether to utilize law enforcement to disperse a demonstration.  

The executive vice president or general counsel is responsible for imposing sanctions on those who violate the policy, except as described below for students and artists, and for calling in law enforcement, or directing Safety & Security or any other staff person to call in law enforcement, to disperse a crowd. 

The director of an Institution school or program is responsible for determining disciplinary action for students or artists affiliated with that school or program, in consultation with the executive officer in charge of that area. 

The president is responsible for adjudicating appeals of sanctions. 

Requesting Approval to Hold a Demonstration

At least two business days prior to the proposed date of demonstration, planners must submit the following form.