MSU Denver supports student activism.

Metropolitan State University of Denver (MSU Denver) supports and promotes freedom of expression and peaceful assembly by students, faculty, staff, and the general public. Student activism is a powerful catalyst for transformation and social change. Activism can be an effective method of educating, raising awareness to help empower our communities, opening new ways of thinking, and enabling students and others to confront and solve problems facing our society.

Accordingly, MSU Denver encourages students to be actively engaged in their communities and supports students’ rights to engage in activism both on and off campus, including through protests and demonstrations. The campus is interested in maximizing the safety and preserving the rights of those participating in the activities as well as those impacted by them. Therefore, the Division of Student Affairs strives to provide proactive education and information to individual students and student organizations who express interest in organizing such activities.

Students: It is important for you to know that you can organize and/or participate in protests with the assurance that you will not face repercussions from the University solely for your participation in or organization of protests or similar forms of activism.

You should not rely completely on any of these materials without critically examining each of them. Instead, you should use these materials to create your own action plan that serves your respective activism/advocacy goals.

The Role of The Center for Multicultural Engagement and Inclusion

The MSU Denver Center for Multicultural Engagement and Inclusion (CMEI) supports students who seek to express their first amendment right to freedom of speech and provides resources such as this guide to help with their activism/advocacy endeavors. This website was created to be used as a resource for students and student organizations interested in utilizing the power of their voice and ensuring their safety in doing so on the Auraria Campus.

The CMEI aims to provide numerous resources in order to provide context, history, and methods for student action. It is important that you understand that the resources shared in this guide are pieces of an evolving and complex framework of activism and advocacy, and the University shares all of these items not as an endorsement, requirement, or absolute but as an opportunity to provide you with as much relevant information as possible.

What the CMEI does: The CMEI does provide support and resources (like this guide), direct students to appropriate University and external partners, and show student organizations how to apply for funding for their events and initiatives.

What the CMEI doesn’t do: The CMEI does not plan protests, demonstrations, or other advocacy events for students. MSU Denver student voices and work must drive activism/advocacy initiatives at the university.

Where to Begin

Participation and involvement in activism and protests are not a violation of the Student Code of Conduct. Please note that violations of the Student Code of Conduct that occur as part of a protest or similar event could be pursued for response by the University.

In this guide, you will find numerous links to laws, policies, procedures, and support.

We begin our resource guide by citing the structure used in the Advocates for Youth’s “Youth Activist Toolkit”. For more information on the toolkit and details of the structured laid out below, please visit the Youth Activist Toolkit.

The Youth Activist Toolkit suggests that you should do the following:

  1. Getting started
    1. Understand what organizing is.
    2. Identify the change you want to see.
    3. Examine the root cause.
    4. Determine your demands.
  2. Create a strategy
    1. Understand what a strategy is.
    2. Complete a power analysis.
    3. Utilize the power map tool.
  3. Craft your message
    1. Understand what messaging is.
    2. Learn how to tell stories (yourselves and others).
    3. Conduct a narrative power analysis to understand ideas.
    4. Consider using art and social media for your activism/advocacy.
  4. Build a collective/collective power
    1. Understand what collective power is.
    2. Recruit people who support your ideas.
    3. Develop leaders for your movement.
    4. Push supports to become and stay engaged.
  5. Use your power
    1. Determine what your tactics are and what popular tactics are.
    2. Recognize what your tactics are and how to escalate.
    3. Consider non-violent intervention tactics that fit your movement.
  6. Sustain your movement
    1. Practice self-care to sustain your movement/organization.
    2. Develop methods to deal with group conflict.
    3. Determine what progress, winning, and accountability looks like.

Hosting an Event on Campus

Events are a common way of educating others, bringing together individuals with shared interests, or otherwise calling attention to an important issue. In the context of the University and on the Auraria campus, there are several key considerations and steps to take in order to support an event’s success – regardless of the cause/purpose.

We are situated on a unique college campus that calls for special considerations for events and activities on campus. The Auraria Campus is a dynamic academic environment shared by three separate and distinct institutions of higher learning that are all designated Hispanic Serving Institutions:

  • Community College of Denver
  • Metropolitan State University of Denver
  • University of Colorado Denver

The Auraria Higher Education Center (AHEC) is a separate state entity whose role is to provide and manage shared services, facilities, and property to support these prominent institutions in achieving their goals. The collective student population is nearly 38,000, with approximately 5,000 faculty and staff.

The Auraria Campus acknowledges and respects the rights of individuals or groups to gather on public property for the purpose of peaceful assembly. Peaceful assembly is defined as any purposeful gathering on campus common exterior property by one or more persons whose conduct is peaceful and is in accordance with the campus rules, policies, procedures and laws including the Campus Weapons Policy, State of Colorado laws and rules with respect to weapons, and other policies outlined in this and other campus policies. Peaceful assembly includes but is not limited to; meetings, speeches, debates, demonstrations, marches, vigils, rallies, protests and similar meetings or gatherings that do not threaten or violate policies and rules, interfere with the administration or conduct of campus business or normal campus functions, regular schedules, or events, infringe on the rights of others, endanger the health or safety of others, or damage or destroy property.

An act by persons engaged in such assemblies which interferes with the rights of others, disrupts the normal functioning of the campus, damages property, or endangers health or safety is grounds for suspension or dismissal from the campus and/or removal from campus property. In addition, such actions may also be the basis for criminal charges by law enforcement authorities. Such assemblies are prohibited inside any campus building, classroom facility, or in any instance which interferes with educational functions or other scheduled activities. Persons refusing to vacate premises upon request are subject to immediate suspension of activities, and arrest under applicable municipal and state laws. Students or student organizations will be held to the standard of the Code of Conduct at their respective institutions if any standards in the code are violated during the assembly.

Recognized student organizations or campus community members at large should work with their Student Activities/Student Life Offices and the Auraria Campus Events Services Office (ACES) to ensure proper coordination. Other persons or organizations planning assemblies on the Auraria Campus are strongly encouraged to work with a campus entity, either a student organization or a recognized institutional department. Further, other persons or organizations are strongly encouraged to coordinate their activities and plans in advance through the Auraria Campus Events Services Office (ACES). This coordination is requested so as to prevent disruption of normal campus activities and avoid endangering the health or safety of persons or damage to property. Non-campus community members should register with ACES prior to engaging in peaceful assembly type activities and to assure that other activities will not be impacted.

Resources for Hosting an Event on Campus

Media Involvement

The news media can help you communicate issues and timely topics that are in the public interest. Student leaders may want to share unique perspectives with the media to amplify a particular message or to take a position on a public-policy issue.

When engaging with news media, please remember that MSU Denver, expects students to treat all journalists – in public media and student media – equally and with the same level of transparency, integrity and mutual respect.

When speaking with the news media, students may represent themselves or student organization, but they are not authorized to speak on behalf of or represent the official position of the University. Students should make this clear to journalists prior to an interview. MSU Denver has a specified designee, Tim Carroll, Director of Media Relations, to guide all media responses on behalf of the University. If students plan to contact the media, please keep him informed so he can appropriately advise the media on who to contact for more information about student’s public-advocacy efforts.

  • Invite Media to Your Event: If you are interested in inviting media to cover your event, it is important to contact them in advance. Below are some things to think about before engaging with media:
    • Make sure your media list is in good shape: Start building a basic media list. A media list is your group’s running list of media contacts: local TV affiliates, one or two local radio stations, the political reporters at your local newspapers, notable bloggers, or Met Media (MSU Denver’s student media platform). Consider Spanish-language media outlets too. For help putting this together, start with:
      • Look up the main phone numbers of your local TV stations; news radio stations; and the main newspapers in your area, big and small.
      • Call the main phone number, ask for the newsroom, and ask them for the main email addresses to send “media advisories” to. Add those emails to your list.
      • Start adding specific reporters’ names as you meet them at events or follow them in the paper.
  • Write a media advisory: A media advisory is essentially an invitation for members of the press to attend your event. It’s shorter than a press release (one-two paragraphs) and covers the basics of your event: Who, What, Where, When and Why.
  • Send your media advisory to your media list – then, follow up:Sending your advisory to the right people with a compelling subject line is the first step because reporters’ inboxes get flooded with advisories every day. The critical next step is pitching your event – following up to make sure the right information gets seen by the right people at the right time.
  • Media Coverage: As you plan your event, here are some things to keep in mind should your event be covered by media:
    • Timeliness: Is your event focused on a topic that’s relevant in the news right now? If not, can it relate to an anniversary, holiday, or other event that journalists will be interested in? The day before your event if possible, or the morning of – send your media list a media advisory email with the basic information about what’s happening.
    • Visuals and audio:What would a TV camera see at your event? What would a radio reporter capture? Take videos/pictures of your action to share with the media to amplify your voice. When sending in videos/photos to the media, remember to add a short description of videos/photos; name of your group or organization; and names of people in the videos/photos (with their permission first).
    • Scheduling:Will it be easy for media to make it? Typically, reporters will be available mid-morning and early afternoon. Are you competing with any big local events on the calendar? Your group will need to balance these considerations with other factors, such as finding a time that makes it easy for your members to turn out.
    • Interviews: Different members of your group may be the best choice to speak with reporters on different times or days of your event. Always assume that if you say something on camera, it can be used later, and if you write it in an email, it could be published.
    • What to do should you experience challenges on the day of your event: If media or a group is counter protesting or attempting to interfere with your initial event:
      • Remember that counter-protestors have free speech rights, and police are allowed to keep protestors and counter-protestors separate. However, protestors and counter-protestors are generally allowed to be within sound and sight of each other.
      • Do not engage in conflict and discourage interaction that might lead to conflict.
      • Maintain distance from other group(s) and aim to conduct your event as if counter-protesters were not present.
      • When you are lawfully in a public place, you may document through photos and videos anything in plain view. When you are on private property, the owner may establish the rules. Contact Auraria Campus Police Department immediately if a threat to safety is presented or if counter-protestors attempt to illegally disrupt your event.

Relevant Laws and Policies for Student Activism

In order to build, use, and sustain power for students’ activism work, it is important to understand the laws and policies that exist inside and outside of the institution. Understanding of laws, policies, and regulations will be important components for crafting tactics to fit your movement. These laws and policies should serve as a starting point for understanding protests and demonstrations, and student activists should be cognizant of how each policy, procedure, or law applies to their specific situation.

Federal and State Laws

First Amendment

“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.”

This law means that generally students and others have a right to peacefully assemble or protest on public property to express, promote, pursue, or defend their collective or shared ideas.

CO – Colorado Revised Statutes Annotated C.R.S. 23-5-144 Title 23. Postsecondary Education

The Colorado Revised Statutes are Colorado laws stating that the rights of students to exercise their freedom of speech on the campuses of public institutions of higher education are protected, while recognizing the right of the institutions to enact reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions that preserve their ability to fulfill their educational missions as well.

MSU Denver Policies

Auraria Campus Police Department First Amendment Assemblies Policy

*We recognize the complex relationship and challenges that many in our community have with policing and police departments. We also acknowledge the harm that many in our community have faced as a result of policing. We share this information with that knowledge in mind, so students are aware of the policies in place concerning activism on campus.

The First Amendment Assemblies policy provides guidance for responding to public assemblies or demonstrations. It is the policy of the Auraria Campus Police Department not to unreasonably interfere with, harass, intimidate or discriminate against persons engaged in the lawful exercise of their rights, while also preserving the peace, protecting life and preventing the destruction of property.

MSU Denver University Policy Library

Please visit the policy library to learn more about the University’s governance and operational policies applicable to students and their rights and responsibilities regarding free expression and peaceful assembly.

MSU Denver Social Media Policy

This policy defines the rules and procedures for the creation and use of official, University social media sites in accordance with federal and state law and other University policies. Additionally, this policy advises MSU Denver employees and students who indicate institutional affiliation on their personal profiles on their rights and responsibilities regarding free expression, as well as how to balance their institutional affiliation with personal use. This policy applies to University employees, students, organizations and others who create and/or maintain an official, University presence on social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, LinkedIn, YouTube, and others, to conduct official, University business.

MSU Denver Student Code of Conduct

The MSU Denver Student Code of Conduct outlines community responsibilities for students during their time at MSU Denver. As students pursue their education, the academic and community environment is supported by values of accountability, respect, justice, and equity.

Resources and Support

MSU Denver Resources

In order to sustain movements, it is important that you understand how to practice self-care, how to deal with conflict, and how to prioritize accountability as you engage in student activism. MSU Denver has numerous resources that can support individuals and groups as they navigate which methods of engagement and activism work best for them. Below are resources that you may reference and seek out for support as you engage in student activism on campus.

MSU Denver Counseling Center

The MSU Denver Counseling Center can help you find ways to manage difficult times and provide you with a comforting place to examine your life and learn more about yourself as you engage in and navigate the complexities and challenges of activism.

MSU Denver Dean of Students

Freedom of expression is important to MSU Denver’s commitment to ensure inclusive educational opportunities for students. The Dean of Students Office is a great resource if you have questions about your rights as a student.

MSU Denver Dialogues Program

The Dialogues Program brings together students who engage in activism to participate in small group facilitated dialogues. Dialogue brings people together to deeply engage in listening, sharing our lived experiences, and challenges us to think about different perspectives other than our own. Above all, dialogue is about having a space to learn from each other despite differences and to create change by talking about action.

MSU Denver Restorative Justice Coalition

Another service offered to students who engage in activism is the Restorative Justice Coalition, which help students to explore restorative practices as a response to conflict and harm that occurs at MSU Denver.

Additional Information and Resources

Advocacy vs. Activism

Advocacy and activism both have a place in movements to promote, direct, or intervene in social, political, economic, or environmental reform with the desire to create changes toward a perceived greater good. When crafting your plans, it is important to understand whether individuals are acting as activists, advocates, or both. It is through advocacy and activism that students develop communication, relationship building, connections, and critical thinking skills. Eva Lewis has stated: “To be an activist is to speak. To be an advocate is to listen. Society can’t move forward without both.” Below are a few resources to help students understand the significance and impact of advocacy and activism so that they are more intentional about their goal and outcomes as they engage in the work.

Being an Activist in College

Activism is not easy, especially in college. As students consider what methods and tactics to use, they must balance the needs of the movement with their needs as a student. Below are a few resources in guiding students’ work as activists on campus as they navigate the challenges of being first a student.

Inclusiveness in Activism

Activism does not occur in silos. You will find that successful activism means being intentional about including the wants and needs of various groups. Through harnessing the power of inclusive activism, people can tap into the dynamic power of community to achieve more than would be seen as previously possible. As such, it is important for student activists to have the resources necessary to have an intersectional and inclusive movement as they partake in building inclusivity within activism. Below are resources to guide student activists in ensuring that their campus activism is intersectional as they engage in the work of activism and advocacy.


Many people want to show support and solidarity or act as allies with a movement. Often, we see that people have good intent, but the impact is not always positive. So, it is important to understand what it means to be an ally, what type of ally to be, and how to avoid performativity. Below are resources to help students understand the concepts and framing around allyship as they engage in the work of advocacy and activism.