Civic Engagement & Service
Safe and sustainable approaches to Create Positive Change include centering your community and beliefs as a priority in life choices by engaging in direct service, advocacy, and activism. Options include contacting elected officials, aligning consumer choices with your values, publicizing news in your networks, providing direct service that addresses root causes of community needs, and facilitating or attending protests as an exercise of your first amendment rights.
In accordance with the first amendment, all perosns have the right to free expression of religion, speech, press, and peaceful assembly.
ACTIVISM ON CAMPUS
The University of South Florida's efforts are designed to support student democratic engagement and civic learning within a healthy campus principled climate. A healthy campus environment at USF is driven by USF’s Principles of Community and leadership and civic engagement concepts (e.g. controversy with civility, conversations across difference, community engagement, and active citizenship) all within the bounds of community conduct expectations.
Student Success staff and students from across all three campuses offer resources and events to support a healthy community. We encourage all USF Bulls to engage as active citizens while managing your health and wellness needs.
One resource to be aware of is the Event Support Team coordinated out of the Dean of Students Office. Contact the Event Support Team for assistance planning your activity by calling (813) 974-5009. The event planners can help you take steps to reduce major disruptions and allow your event to operate smoothly. More about the Event Support Team is discussed below.
Free Speech at USF
Follow these rules to have a safe and effective event. Violators could be asked to leave or trespassed from campus. Students can be subject to disciplinary action by the Office of Student Conduct and Ethical Development. you are encouraged to review USF Policy 6-028.
- Campuses are limited public forums to exercise your first amendment right to speech,
religion, press, and peaceful assembly
- As a limited public forum, the university can manage time, place, and manner, which most often occurs when there is a significant disruption including, but not limited to, disrupting classes, operations, and/or scheduled events
- Entrances and egresses cannot be blocked
- USF has policies on amplified sound and events
- Reservations are required to use amplified sound
- Some speech is protected, some is not
- Threats are not protected
- Community Conduct Expectations
- Distribute relevant information to share more about your cause
- Maintain community and individual safety
- Respect community and individual property
You will often see members of USF’s Event Support Team at on campus protests, vigils, demonstrations, and other programs or speakers with controversial material or other risk factors. The Event Support Team is a trained group of USF staff members who are focused on:
- Supporting free speech rights and student activism
- Educating organizers and bystanders on their rights and responsibilities
- Maintaining the university’s ability to meet its academic mission
- Responding to events in order to ensure a safe living and learning environment
This Team supports everyone's ability to exercise their first amendment rights. As part of that process, and in alignment with Florida State Statues, they may ask any person on campus that is participating in an event, protest, or demonstration to provide valid ID.
Attending a Protest
Before you engage as an active citizen, you should educate yourself on relevant issues and evaluate the event in relation to personal, group, and community values and beliefs. If you choose to attend, make a plan that considers your safety, health, and wellbeing. You should know, in advance, what to do, what not to do, what to wear, and what to bring. You can find a variety or online resources that can help you develop your plan.
You should also know your rights, responsibilities, and limits. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Know Your Rights explains your basic rights under the U.S. Constitution and civil rights laws. The website will help you learn more about what your rights are, how to exercise them, and what to do when your rights are violated. One section specifically focuses on Protestors’ Rights and provides information or organizing and attending a protest, including what to do if stopped by the police.
Counterprotesters also have free speech rights. USF’s Event Support Team and campus police are permitted to keep antagonistic groups separated and must treat protesters and counterprotesters equally.
Know Your Rights. Plan Effectively. Know the Rules. Follow the Rules. USF supports the free exchange of ideas and encourages civil discourse. Learn more.
Other ways to get involved
- Meet with Student Government leaders or university administrators like the Ombuds or Dean of Students
Fact Check Information
Create political or cause-related messages
- Sign an online petition
- Create a blog or website, original social media posts, videos, hashtags
- Write an open letter or letter to the Editor
- Email, call, or text your elected officials
- Give a lecture or speech
- Publish academic research
Participate with or create an organization
- Attend or organize virtual meetings, events, or town halls
- Volunteer for a political campaign or party
- Run for a leadership role in an organization or public office
- Buy, boycott, fundraise, crowdsource, or donate
Vote by mail
- Federal, state elections, local elections
USF Historical Articles:
- Nationwide list of bail funds for protesters
In conjunction with the National Bail Fund Network, a comprehensive list of bail funds for protestors across the country.
- The Bail Project
A non-profit organization designed to combat mass incarceration by providing free bail assistance to low-income individuals who are legally presumed innocent, and whom a judge has deemed eligible for release before trial contingent on paying bail.
- Minnesota Freedom Fund
A non-profit organization that pays criminal bail and immigration bond for those who cannot afford to, in order to end discriminatory, coercive, and oppressive jailing.
- NAACP Legal Defense Fund
A legal organization that fights for racial justice through litigation, advocacy, and public education in order to seek structural changes that expand democracy, eliminate disparities, and achieve racial justice.
- Equal Justice Initiative
A non-profit organization that seeks to end mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the United States, challenge racial and economic injustice, and protect the basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society.
For more information, please contact the Center for Leadership & Civic Engagement (CLCE), at CLCE@usf.edu.