Policy: Dissent and Disruption


The purpose of this policy is to distinguish between lawful dissent and unlawful disruption that disturbs the functioning of the university.


It is the policy of the Michigan State University Police Department (Department) to protect the rights of others to free speech and expression. The distinction between appropriate dissent and inappropriate disruption is important in protecting the rights of others and continuing to perform our responsibilities with courtesy and excellence.



Dissent on our campus could include such acts as:

Protesting with picket signs

Conducting a public march

Briefly shouting at a public speaker

These acts that are not taken to a point of actually stopping a function or closing a facility for others’ use, these dissenting acts may be very legitimate and lawful expressions of free speech.


Disruption goes beyond legitimate dissent, and is neither permissible nor lawful.

Disruption would include acts occurring in a “time, place or manner” that are so extreme, they stop a normal university activity from being able to continue, or that prevent others from legitimate and intended use of a facility.



Dissent is not only tolerated, but actually encouraged and facilitated at Michigan State University.

A college campus is an appropriate environment for the discussion of differing viewpoints, the expression of challenging ideas and the exercise of free speech and other civil liberties.

Officers can facilitate such dissent by the following actions, if appropriate:

Directing traffic or providing a lead police car for the safety of marching protesters.

Maintaining crowd control and providing secure conditions between demonstrators and counter-demonstrators.

Meeting group leaders to explain legalities and offer support for the group in terms of ensuring safety and non-violence.


The disruption of university functions or facilities prevents legitimate university objectives from taking place; and would interfere with the rights and liberties of others on campus.

Actual disruption is unlawful according to state laws and local ordinances. However, the importance of free speech, especially in a university environment, leads law enforcement to look for ways to maintain or re-establish order without force where possible.

In some situations it may be possible to end the disruption with requests or warnings.

Ultimately, if warning and reason do not prevail, law enforcement actions may be necessary.

Even in disruptive situations, law enforcement officers should react with an extra measure of tolerance in attempting to restore order.

The first effort should be to end the disruption through warnings and reason where possible. Some examples include:

A crowd heckler could first be asked to leave an event rather than be arrested.

Demonstrators using a non-approved loudspeaker could be requested to comply before they face arrest.

If meaningful efforts using reason and warnings to direct individuals fail, continued disruption should be addressed with other appropriate law enforcement actions including arrests.

The Department is here to serve the entire campus community by ensuring that the legitimate rights of others are not denied by unlawful disruption.

Group Sit-in or takeover of a university facility

The Chief of Police (Chief) or designee will direct actions to take in accordance with these procedures (including OPR19: Building Arrest and Clearing Procedures).

These procedures were developed through consultation with the Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office and the University Office of the General Counsel to provide for police action in a calm, courteous and firm manner.

These procedures include:

Public notification of laws and regulations being violated

Provision of special assistance to any sick, injured or disabled persons


When dispersal commands are not followed; arrest, transport and processing of any arrestees are necessary.

All police command officers and supervisors should make sure that all policies and procedures related to arrest are implemented appropriately and clearly understood.