University of Pennsylvania

Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Website: http://www.upenn.edu/
Type: Private
Federal Circuit: 3rd Circuit

Speech Code Rating

University of Pennsylvania has been given the speech code rating Green. Green light institutions are those colleges and universities whose policies nominally protect free speech. Read more here.

This school does not have any cases at this time.
Yellow Light Policies
  • The Pennbook: Use of Facilities 12-13

    Speech Code Category: Other Speech Codes, Statement

    Depending on the location of an outdoor event, on scheduled classes in nearby buildings, and on the proximity of offices in use, non-conflicting activities should be scheduled by prior arrangements with the Perelman Quad and VPUL Facilities staff.

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Green Light Policies
  • The Pennbook: Policy on Acceptable Use of Electronic Resources 12-13

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies, Statement

    Unlawful communications, including threats of violence, obscenity, child pornography, and harassing communications (as defined by law), are prohibited.

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  • The Pennbook: Code of Student Conduct 12-13

    Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression, Statement

    Membership in the University of Pennsylvania community affords every student certain rights that are essential to the University's educational mission and its character as a community: ... The right to freedom of thought and expression.

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  • The Pennbook: Guidelines on Open Expression 12-13

    Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression, Statement

    The University of Pennsylvania, as a community of scholars, affirms, supports and cherishes the concepts of freedom of thought, inquiry, speech, and lawful assembly. The freedom to experiment, to present and examine alternative data and theories; the freedom to hear, express, and debate various views; and the freedom to voice criticism of existing practices and values are fundamental rights that must be upheld and practiced by the University in a free society.

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  • Guide to the University of Pennsylvania Sexual Harassment Policy 12-13

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies, Statement

    Sexual harassment can be exhibited using three types of behaviors - verbal, non-verbal behaviors and gestures, and physical contact . Some types of verbal behavior that might constitute sexual harassment, especially when occurring in combination with offensive touching are:

    * Continuous and persistent sexual slurs or sexual innuendoes
    * Offensive and persistent risque jokes or kidding about sex or gender-specific traits
    * Repeated unsolicited propositions for dates and/or sexual relations

    Gestures or non-verbal behaviors might also be considered sexual harassment where they are persistent, severe, and offensive. Examples may include:

    * Sexual looks and lewd gestures, such as leering or ogling with suggestive overtones
    * Touching oneself sexually or persistent and unwelcome flirting
    * Displaying sexually suggestive pictures, calendars, or posters
    * Stalking

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  • Sexual Harassment Policy 12-13

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies, Statement

    For the purposes of University policy, the term "sexual harassment" refers to any unwanted sexual attention that:
    ...
    2. Has the purpose or effect of interfering with an individual's academic or work performance; and/or;

    3. Creates an intimidating or offensive academic, living or work environment.

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  • Censorship and “Unlearning Liberty” at College: Q&A with FIRE’s Greg Lukianoff

    August 5, 2013

    by Nick Gillespie and Anthony Fisher Reason Online   “The…idea that if you just let people talk, it will be this pit of racist pandemonium…is sort of childish and it oversimplifies. But it is a great justification for having a lot of power over speech,” says Greg Lukianoff, the president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). Lukianoff spoke with Reason TV’s Nick Gillespie about his new book Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate, where he details the slow and steady withering of free expression on America’s college campuses. In some ways, the modern on-campus free-speech movement […]

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  • We Are All Blasphemers: A Response to Eric Posner

    September 26, 2012

    Everyone is a blasphemer to someone. I know it doesn’t feel like it. I know it’s hard for modern Americans to imagine going to jail (or worse) because of what you believe in your heart, but every single person reading this has a belief that in some part of the world or at some point in history could’ve gotten you arrested, beheaded, or burned at the stake. Are you a Protestant? That was a burning offense. Catholic? More of a beheading/hanging one. Jewish? You get the idea. And, of course, there are people like me, atheists, who are still considered […]

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  • Alan Kors on Speech Codes, Libertarianism, And the Case for the Humanities

    September 11, 2012

    “I guarantee you,” Alan Charles Kors tells Nick Gillespie, “that Reason published on a campus would be defunded and that you’d be up on harassment charges every other week.” Kors knows what he’s talking about. As the Henry Charles Lea Professor of European Historyat the University of Pennsylvania and the co-founder of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), he has long agitated against repressive speech codes at the nation’s colleges and universities. Along with co-author (and fellow FIRE co-founder) Harvey Silverglate, Kors made a book-length case in the 1999 polemic The Shadow University. Kors’ interest in free expression — especially in an academic setting […]

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  • Experts say critics ignore the obvious: free speech

    November 8, 2006

    Engineering senior Saad Saadi may have offended a lot of people with his suicide-bomber costume last week- but that’s his prerogative, free speech experts say.   Saadi, a Daily Pennsylvanian photographer, wore the costume to Penn President Amy Gutmann’s annual Halloween party last Tuesday.   By strapping fake dynamite to his body, pointing guns at students’ heads and pretending to recite Muslim prayers, Saadi provoked various student leaders and administrators to issue formal statements criticizing his costume choice. Letters of condemnation have poured into Gutmann’s office, many of which say she shouldn’t have allowed Saadi into her party at all. […]

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  • Will photo haunt Penn president?

    November 6, 2006

    Controversial Facebook photographs are supposed to get students — not college presidents — in hot water. But days after hosting her annual Halloween party at the presidential home, University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann finds herself the subject of criticism after a photograph of her posing with a student dressed as a suicide bomber circulated online. Saad Saadi, a Penn undergraduate, came to Gutmann’s party wearing camouflage pants and fake dynamite strapped to his shirt. He brandished a fake gun and in some pictures appears to be reading a Koran. Photographs that were posted on his Facebook account show him […]

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  • Breadth of wording simply absurd

    February 20, 2006

    It is illegal to say “oh, boy” in Jonesborough, Ga. It is illegal to take a lion to the cinema in Baltimore. Absurd, right? But Penn has its own absurd rules. Take a look at the University’s Sexual Harassment Handbook. It’s easy to see that the number of absurd policies on hand is striking. The policy begins innocently enough saying people cannot engage in “unwelcome and inappropriate sexually based behavior.” But it continues: “Sexual harassment can be exhibited using three types of behaviors — verbal, non-verbal behaviors and gestures and physical contact.” These include behaviors such as: Sexual looks such […]

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  • Lighting the FIRE of Liberty in Philadelphia

    January 25, 2006

    The seeds of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) sprouted at Penn over a decade ago. Late one night in 1993, in response to the loud singing and stomping of a group of African-American sorority girls, Penn student Eden Jacobowitz yelled, from the window of his dorm room, “Shut up, you water buffalo. If you want a party, there’s a zoo a mile from here.” For his “water buffalo” comment—a translation of a Yiddish term for rude people—Penn unjustly charged Jacobowitz with violating its racial harassment policy. Professor Alan Charles Kors, along with other members of the faculty, […]

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  • Pres: No need for inquiry investigation of OSC

    December 7, 2005

    There will be no University investigation of the Office of Student Conduct, which has come under fire for its response to the Hamilton nude photo case, President Amy Gutmann announced yesterday. Gutmann said that there is “no basis for an investigation” into the office’s handling of the case, which involved a student who took pictures of a couple apparently having sex against a Penn dormitory window. The student, an Engineering junior, then posted the pictures on a University Web site. The OSC originally said this was against school policy, but eventually dropped all charges against the photographer last week. Gutmann […]

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  • Exposure suit not likely for high-rise pair

    December 5, 2005

    The couple pictured in the now-infamous Hamilton College House sex-scene photo could be prosecuted under state law for exposing themselves in public. But experts say it’s not likely. Penn’s Office of Student Conduct has not said whether it will take action in this regard and has not returned repeated phone calls for comment. The Pennsylvania criminal code states an act is “lewd” if the person involved “knows [it] is likely to be observed by others who would be affronted or alarmed.” The crime is a third-degree misdemeanor. The couple at the center of last week’s scandal had sex against the […]

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  • Publicize conduct cases

    December 5, 2005

    The controversy surrounding photos taken of a couple apparently having sex in a high rise window has put a spotlight on the Office of Student Conduct. The attention has shown just how much of a problem the way the University’s disciplinary arm conducts its business has become. The main problem with the OSC is the lack of transparency in the office’s operations. This became obvious when the office charged an Engineering junior with violating the University’s Code of Student Conduct for publishing photos online of the couple then dropped the charges. Maybe they had a change of heart. Or, more […]

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  • Shadows of the ‘water buffalo’

    December 2, 2005

    Recent controversy surrounding a photograph of a sex scene marks at least the second time in just over a decade that the University has come under fire over free-speech issues. Like the present case — in which the University initially sought to punish an Engineering junior who posted a photograph of a couple apparently having sex in an open Hamilton College House window on a Penn Internet server — the “water buffalo” incident of 1993 revolved around the issue of student rights to free speech in a university setting. Then-College freshman Eden Jacobowitz leaned from the window of what is […]

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  • Photographer escapes charges

    December 2, 2005

    Penn officials dropped all charges against the student embroiled in a controversy over free expression yesterday. The Engineering junior who took pictures of a couple apparently having sex against a Hamilton College House window had been accused of sexual harassment and violating Penn’s Code of Student Conduct. Representatives of the photographer called the outcome expected but said the case raises larger questions about how the conduct office operates. Meanwhile, an attorney for the woman pictured in the now-infamous photograph has said that his client will pursue further legal action. Officials also plan to drop charges against a second student who […]

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  • Belated reprieve

    December 2, 2005

    It is shameful that it takes a barrage of negative press for the University to finally make the right decision. Penn had one of its students backed into a corner with unreasonable charges of sexual harassment for posting on the Internet nude photos of other students in front of an open window. But faster than the national media could say “Water Buffalo” — in reference to the free-speech scandal that gave Penn a black eye in 1993 — the Office of Student Conduct dropped the charges. That was the right decision given the baseless nature of the allegations. The photographer […]

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  • Letter to the Editor

    December 2, 2005

    To the Editor: I write to clarify two statements attributed to me in Wednesday’s article “Free speech at center of nude-photo controversy.” First, the article has me saying that a private university has great legal ability to limit rights but will not generally choose to wield it. If only this were true! What I said was that universities do not want to be seen to abandon their commitments to academic and fundamental freedoms because it would destroy their credibility as educational institutions. All too many of them do abandon these commitments when they think they can do it in secret. […]

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  • Penn drops complaint over sex photo

    December 2, 2005

    The University of Pennsylvania drew the curtains on the Rear Window affair yesterday, dropping a sexual-harassment complaint against a student who photographed the bare backside of another student as she and her paramour apparently had sex in full view of the street below. Free-speech advocates had blasted the university for attempting to discipline the photographer, an engineering major who snapped the picture of the naked pair sometime in September and then posted it on his personal Penn Web site. His defenders argued that if anyone were to be punished, it should have been the coupling couple for lewd behavior and […]

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  • Pictures That Sparked a Thousand Words

    December 1, 2005

    Buttocks. Some flesh. At least two pairs of legs. And a student who took pictures of what appears to be a steamy sex act, taking place against a window in a dormitory, clearly visible to any passersby. Those ingredients are brewing some heated debate over First Amendment protection at the University of Pennsylvania as some recall a 1993 “water buffalo” incident that many thought taught the university to stay away from regulating free expression. The photographer, an engineering junior, posted the pictures several weeks ago on his password-protected university Web site, which eventually garnered attention at CollegeHumor.com. The pictures are […]

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  • Free speech at center of nude-photo controversy

    December 1, 2005

    Controversy over the disciplinary fate of the Engineering junior who posted a photograph of two students apparently having sex in Hamilton College House centers on the issue of whether the photograph is protected under freedom of speech. A determining factor in the debate is whether University disciplinary actions trump constitutional freedom of speech, and, so far, the answer is unclear. Penn History professor and acclaimed First Amendment rights defender Alan Kors, however, says the answer is clear. The University Board of Trustees and former Penn President Judith Rodin established in the early 1990s that students would receive the same rights […]

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  • U. of Pennsylvania Charges Junior Who Posted Images of Students Having Sex in Window

    December 1, 2005

    The University of Pennsylvania has charged at least one student with sexual harassment and misuse of electronic resources after he posted pictures on the Internet that show students apparently having sex while standing beside a large window in one of the university’s high-rise dormitories. Pictures of the nude students were taken by more than one photographer. The images made the rounds through e-mail messages and various Web sites, and at least one of the photographers posted the pictures on his personal Penn Web site at the end of September. Pictures taken by a different photographer were posted, and widely viewed, […]

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  • Indecent treatment

    December 1, 2005

    Sexual harassment charges over a photo of the outside of a building? That is ridiculous. But that is what the Office of Student Conduct is threatening one student with for what, at worst, is an exercise in poor taste An Engineering junior who has admitted to taking photos of two naked students and then posting them on his personal Penn Web site faces disciplinary action that by many accounts is abnormally harsh. Judging the content of what the student posted is not the aim here. His choice to post nude photos on the Internet was as ill-advised as the choice […]

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  • Student In Trouble For Posting Naked Dorm Photos

    November 30, 2005

    PHILADELPHIA — A junior at the University of Pennsylvania faces punishment from the school for posting photos he took of two naked students who could be seen through a dorm window, according to confidential memos obtained by a student newspaper.   The unnamed engineering student faces sexual harassment and other charges from the university for electronically publishing pictures of the couple on his Web site, The Daily Pennsylvanian reported Wednesday. The photographs taken earlier this fall were widely circulated via e-mail on campus and appeared on at least one other Internet site. By featuring the pictures on his personal Web […]

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  • Racy photo lands student in trouble

    November 30, 2005

    What started out as two risque pictures has turned into a very serious matter for one Penn student.   According to confidential University memos obtained by The Daily Pennsylvanian, an Engineering junior — who snapped photos of two students appearing to have sex in the window of a Hamilton College House dorm room — currently faces sexual harassment and other charges from the University.   The student remains anonymous because all identifying information was blacked out of these documents.   These photos and others were widely circulated via e-mail on Penn’s campus and one now appears on the popular Web […]

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  • Group Defends Campus Free-Speech Rights

    August 27, 2005

    PHILADELPHIA — When part-time college student Jihad Daniel received a campuswide e-mail invitation to see a movie about lesbians, he balked.”These are perversions,” he replied to the e-mail’s sender, asking that he no longer be sent information about “Connie and Sally” or “Adam and Steve.” The next thing he knew, the 68-year-old student at William Paterson University in Wayne, N.J., was accused of violating the state school’s anti-discrimination policy.A letter of reprimand followed in June, describing his brief comments to the sender—the head of the women’s studies program—as “derogatory or demeaning.” He took his case to a Philadelphia organization that […]

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  • Philly group takes national lead in fighting campus censorship

    August 21, 2005

    An organization inspired by a campus fight over whether “water buffalo” was a racist slur has become the go-to group for college students and professors of all stripes who believe their rights to free speech have been violated.Since its founding in 1999, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has battled pro bono for evangelicals and atheists, animal rights activists and campus conservatives, and others who say they have been silenced by school administrators because of their points of view. With 11 employees in Philadelphia and a network of dozens of volunteer attorneys nationwide, the organization has grown from an […]

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  • Educating the University

    June 1, 2005

    Donald Alexander Downs. Restoring Free Speech and Liberty on Campus. Cambridge University Press. 318 pages. $28.99 Our universities are ailing. Many, including most of our elite universities, have abandoned the notion that a liberal arts education is constituted by a solid core, that is, a basic knowledge of the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences that all educated people should possess. Furthermore, for all their earnest words about the beauty and necessity of multicultural education, university administrators and faculty preside over a curriculum that routinely permits students to graduate without acquiring reading, writing, and speaking fluency in any foreign language, […]

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  • Aftermath, consequences of decade-old Water Buffalo affair

    April 18, 2003

    The Water Buffalo affair may be a thing of the past, but the proverbial hatchet is far from being buried. Both contention over the issues the affair highlighted a decade ago and visible changes that have stemmed from its aftermath still have a clear presence on Penn’s campus. Since 1993, “Penn has had a chance to look itself in the eye,” University President Judith Rodin said. The controversy began in January of that year, when then-College freshman Eden Jacobowitz, angered by noise that a group of sorority women was making below his High Rise East dorm room, called them “water […]

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  • Lessons learned, 10 years later

    April 18, 2003

    Even after 10 years, the Water Buffalo incident is still a vivid, bitter memory for those who were involved. The battle over free speech that resulted from the incident made national headlines and placed a blemish on Penn’s reputation that the University is still struggling to overcome. It brought racial tensions to the forefront of campus discussion and served as a glaring reminder that the Penn community was not immune to issues of racial tension. While the issues raised in the Water Buffalo incident have yet to be fully resolved, the University has made a tremendous effort over the past […]

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  • In defense of freedom in academia

    April 17, 2003

    Alan Kors, from the Adam Smith tie around his neck to the “Liberty” flag on his wall, makes no bones about his libertarianism. His files, refusing to conform to anyone’s concept of order but their own, apparently share it. “Can you believe the kid won?” Kors asks, holding up an old envelope covered in scribbled names, numbers and reminders that, along with the mountains of scrap paper, xeroxes and formal reports from which it came, once played its part in Kors’ struggle against Penn’s prosecution of Eden Jacobowitz. “This is what his defense looked like,” Kors says, spreading the piles […]

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  • Issues of free speech confronted at colleges

    April 17, 2003

    The Water Buffalo incident may be 10 years in the past, but the future of free speech remains hazy at colleges and universities from coast to coast. Penn’s own speech code was called into question in the spring of 1993, when then-College freshman Eden Jacobowitz was charged with racial harassment for shouting, “Shut up, you water buffalo,” at 15 black sorority sisters dancing under his high rise window in the wee hours of the morning. The right not to be offended and the right to freedom of expression apparently continue to do battle in almost every state in the union. […]

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  • Big mandate on campus

    September 17, 2002

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  • Fighting Shadows with FIRE

    January 1, 2000

    According to Dr. Alan Charles Kors, the professor and undergraduate curriculum chair of history who recently co-founded the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), the ultimate aim is to go out of business. “The goal of FIRE,” he says, “is to eradicate itself by ending the abuses of power that now dominate American academic life.” Kors doesn’t see that happening anytime soon, however, which is why he and Boston attorney Harvey Silverglate, his fellow scourge of “mandatory thought-control,” are planning to use FIRE to fight what he calls “the current assault on liberty and dignity on campuses.” Kors is […]

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  • What Makes a ‘Green Light’ Computer Use Policy?

    January 10, 2014

    FIRE has recently been examining some of the best “green light” university policies here on The Torch, including policies regarding harassment and civility. The policies discussed in those entries, maintained by Mississippi State University and North Carolina State University, respectively, are ideal examples for other schools to follow in crafting their own policy. Today, we examine computer and Internet usage policies. Many universities maintain broad restrictions on students’ ability to express themselves online and over email. Frequently, this occurs because computer use and network use policies are issued by university IT departments with little to no oversight from university administrators who may have a better […]

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  • The Seven Best Colleges For Free Speech

    August 6, 2013

    by Greg Lukianoff The Huffington Post   View this article at The Huffington Post.

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  • 6 of 10 universities can’t figure out 1st Amendment

    August 5, 2013

    by Bob Unruh WND   More than six of 10 colleges and universities across the United States have yet to figure out the First Amendment, because their “speech codes” conflict with the Constitution, according to a new report from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. “FIRE surveyed 409 schools for this report and found that over 62 percent maintain severely restrictive, ‘red-light’ speech codes – policies that clearly and substantially prohibit protected speech,” said the executive summary. “That this figure is so large is deeply troubling, but there is good news: for the fifth year in a row, the percentage of […]

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  • A History of Political Correctness: 20 Years After Penn’s “Water Buffalo” Incident

    August 5, 2013

    by Sandy Hingston Philadelphia Magazine   On a winter’s night 20 years ago, a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania who was working on an English paper heard a ruckus outside his dorm. A group of sorority sisters was singing, stomping and yelling, and he couldn’t concentrate. So he shouted out the window at them: “Shut up, you water buffalo!” The young man, Eden Jacobowitz, was Jewish. The women he yelled at that night were black. He was subsequently accused of violating Penn’s policy against racial harassment. In the months that followed, what became known as “the Water Buffalo Incident” […]

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  • FIRE Names Seven Best Schools for Free Speech on ‘Huffington Post’

    August 2, 2013

    PHILADELPHIA, May 24, 2011—Today the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) commends the nation’s seven best colleges and universities for freedom of speech in an article by FIRE President Greg Lukianoff on The Huffington Post. The colleges listed are Arizona State University, Dartmouth College, The College of William & Mary, the University of Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, and the University of Virginia. “FIRE spends most of its time bringing much-needed attention to the sorry state of free speech for students and faculty on our nation’s campuses,” FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said. “Today, we wanted to […]

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  • Liberty Requires Tough Choices: The Student Funding Dilemma

    July 31, 2013

    Kanisha Parthasarathy is a FIRE summer intern. Allocating money to student groups is a tricky game. For many colleges, the amount of money given to groups is not increasing at the same rate as the number of student groups vying for recognition and funding. Funding boards usually solve this problem by creating guidelines to determine how much money a student group gets. The problem arises when these rules are applied without viewpoint neutrality, a requirement for public colleges’ funding boards established by the Supreme Court in Rosenberger v. Rectors of the University of Virginia (1995) and Board of Regents of the […]

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  • ‘Philadelphia Magazine’ on 20 Years of Political Correctness and ‘Unlearning Liberty’

    May 3, 2013

      Sandy Hingston of FIRE’s hometown Philadelphia Magazine marks the 20th anniversary of the infamous “water buffalo incident” at the University of Pennsylvania with an extended discussion of how the last 20 years have borne out the arguments made in FIRE President Greg Lukianoff’s book, Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate.  The “water buffalo incident” started a national discussion about political correctness on campus, inspired the writing of The Shadow University: The Betrayal of Liberty on America’s Campuses, and ultimately led to the founding of FIRE by that book’s authors. Titled “A History of Political Correctness: […]

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  • Tyga Comes to Campus: Penn Students Call for Dialogue, Harvard Students Call for Cancellation

    April 3, 2013

    More than 1,800 Harvard students have signed a Change.org petition asking the Harvard administration to rescind its invitation to hip-hop artist Tyga to headline the university’s annual Yardfest, because of Tyga’s “explicitly and violently misogynistic lyrics.” The petition states: We demand that Harvard rescind its offer to Tyga, because we believe that Harvard should not provide a platform for music that promotes sexism and rape culture. What a missed opportunity this is. Can you imagine the powerful message that Harvard students would have sent the administration—and society at large—by boycotting Tyga’s performance en masse, and by sharing, via social media […]

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  • FIRE President Greg Lukianoff Speaking at Penn Tomorrow

    April 1, 2013

    FIRE President Greg Lukianoff will visit the University of Pennsylvania tomorrow to discuss his book, Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate. The speech will take place at the University of Pennsylvania Bookstore and will begin at 12:30 p.m. In examining the themes of Unlearning Liberty, Greg will reveal how intolerance for dissent and debate on America’s college campuses threatens the freedom of every citizen—and makes us all just a little bit dumber. His discussion of free speech on college campuses and in the larger society will also touch upon local controversies, including the revocation of an […]

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  • Robert Shibley Blogs for ‘College Insurrection’

    September 14, 2012

    FIRE’s Robert Shibley has a new post for College Insurrection addressing recent comments made by University of Pennsylvania professor Anthea Butler in favor of the arrest of the alleged director of the anti-Islamic film that has inflamed tensions in the Middle East. Earlier this week, in an op-ed for USA Today, Butler defended that argument while at the same time posturing herself as a strong supporter of the First Amendment. After all, she explained, “If there is anyone who values free speech, it is a tenured professor!”  Unfortunately, as Robert’s article details, Butler’s position as a tenured professor doesn’t give […]

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  • Southern schools dominate list of best colleges for free speech

    September 6, 2012

    Just as college students head off to campus, a list of schools that hold the First Amendment above political correctness is out  - with a slew of Southern schools leading the way. The list, released Wednesday by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), cites James Madison University, the College of William & Mary, the University of Mississippi, Mississippi State University, the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, the University of Virginia and the University of Pennsylvania for protecting free speech on campus and maintaining policies honoring freedom of expression. “It’s easy for students to get caught up in the frenzy of trying […]

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  • Celebrating Penn’s Protection of Controversial Speech

    February 14, 2012

    The University of Pennsylvania has made great strides since the infamous “water buffalo” incident of 1993, described in the opening chapter of The Shadow University, the 1998 book by FIRE founders Alan Charles Kors and Harvey Silverglate that launched FIRE in 1999. In today’s Daily Pennsylvanian, Shelli Gimelstein highlights Penn’s recent successes in protecting controversial speech not only in policy but also in practice. The initiating event for this article was a controversial Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions conference concerning Israel, organized at Penn by the campus student organization PennBDS. It appears that the conference did not meet official resistance from […]

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  • The State of Free Speech on Campus: University of Pennsylvania

    May 18, 2009

    Throughout the spring semester, FIRE is drawing special attention to the state of free speech at America’s top 25 national universities (as ranked by U.S. News & World Report). Today we review policies at the University of Pennsylvania, which receives a green-light rating. A green-light rating means that FIRE has found no policies that seriously imperil student speech on campus. However, a green-light rating does not imply perfection; there may still be room for improvement even at a university whose policies do not pose a serious threat to free speech. In fact, there is room for improvement in Penn’s policies, […]

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  • Greg Speaking at the University of Pennsylvania Tonight

    September 23, 2008

    At 8:00 p.m. (ET), FIRE President Greg Lukianoff will be giving a presentation to students and faculty at the University of Pennsylvania as part of Students’ Rights Night. Greg’s speech, entitled “Student Rights and the University of Pennsylvania,” is open to students and the public. Several FIRE staff members will also be present to answer questions about the Campus Freedom Network and FIRE’s work. If you are in the Philadelphia area tonight, we hope to see you there!

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  • U. of Delaware Story Hits Student Press

    November 9, 2007

    The college media has taken note of FIRE’s recent case at the University of Delaware.   This morning, the University of Pennsylvania’s Daily Pennsylvanian ran a feature story on the controversy. And on Thursday, The Harvard Crimson ran a staff editorial critical of Delaware’s program. The Crimson staff wrote: This is not the stuff of cultural cohesion. Rather, the program at the University of Delaware represents the worst mechanisms for building diversity on a college campus: Its methods were to victimize and criminalize, and its effects were to polarize.   […]   We are relieved that the University of Delaware […]

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  • ‘Daily Pennsylvanian’ Comments on Penn’s Green Light Rating

    February 14, 2007

    In a column in today’s Daily Pennsylvanian, University of Pennsylvania (Penn) freshman Jamie France commends Penn for its green light rating on FIRE’s Spotlight. After explaining FIRE’s system of evaluation and pointing out that Penn and Dartmouth were the only Ivy League institutions to receive a green light, France wrote: By allowing us to do and say what we want, within reason, Penn is fostering our potential to become the innovative minds of the future. During a time when so few people have the confidence to voice heretical opinions, colleges must be responsible for instilling attitudes of boldness, in its […]

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  • FIRE, Carol Iannone, and the Amy Gutmann Halloween Costume Controversy

    November 7, 2006

    On Phi Beta Cons today, Carol Iannone criticizes FIRE’s reaction to the Halloween party picture of University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann with Saad Saadi, a Penn student who dressed as a suicide bomber for Halloween. Iannone says, in part:  Contrary to the libertarian view, a good, free, ordered society does not simply proceed on its own. And I am shocked at conservatives and at FIRE for giving her a pass, and chalking up the costume to the ‘freedom’ they fear will somehow be curtailed if persons in authority are asked to stand for civil behavior, and likening the costume […]

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  • Count Gutmann Among the Offended

    November 3, 2006

    Well, it was only a matter of time before the complaints got to Amy Gutmann. She issued a statement today assuring everyone that she was indeed offended by the suicide bomber costume. The statement reads, Each year, the president hosts a Halloween party for Penn students.  More than 700 students attend. They all crowd around to have their picture taken with me in costume. This year, one student who had a toy gun in hand had his picture taken with me before it was obvious to me that he was dressed as a suicide bomber.  He posted the photo on […]

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  • Celebrating One Year of ‘The Torch’

    February 28, 2006

    One year ago this month, FIRE launched The Torch as a decisive step into the daily debate over civil liberties on campus. The blog format has proved to be a great forum for FIRE staff members to introduce and follow up on FIRE cases, discuss current legal and policy issues affecting campus rights, point out interesting articles and other blog posts, and present FIRE’s reflections on campus controversies that have not been adopted as FIRE cases.   We are especially proud of the scrutiny of misguided campus policies that has been generated by The Torch’s “Speech Code of the Month” […]

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  • U. of Pennsylvania Officials Face Criticism Over Handling of Sex Pictures

    December 16, 2005

    As pictures of naked students having sex in the window of a University of Pennsylvania dormitory quickly circulated on the Internet, administrators flip-flopped on whether to charge a student who posted the images with violating university rules on computer use and harassment. After a monthlong investigation, the university initially charged the student, identified only as a junior who is majoring in engineering, with sexual harassment and misuse of electronic resources after he posted pictures of the nude couple on his personal Penn Web site for a couple of weeks. The university investigated the incident after one of the photograph’s subjects […]

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  • Officials drop charges against student who photographed sex scene

    December 5, 2005

    PENNSYLVANIA — School officials dropped all disciplinary charges last week against a University of Pennsylvania student over a photo he posted on the Internet of two students who appear to be having sex against a dorm room window. The student, when questioned by the school’s Office of Student Conduct in September, admitted taking the photo from the window of a neighboring building and posting it on his personal Web site, said Andrew Geier, a graduate student who advised the accused photographer during the disciplinary process. The couple was visible in the window over three consecutive days and there are many […]

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  • Penn Drops Charges Against Student Who Posted Online Photos of Nude Couple

    December 5, 2005

    A day after reporters and bloggers besieged the University of Pennsylvania with calls and criticism, university officials decided to drop all charges against a student who had posted pictures online of fellow students having sex against a dormitory window. The student, identified only as a junior who is majoring in engineering, had been charged with sexual harassment and misuse of university electronic resources after he posted pictures of the nude couple on his personal Penn Web site for a couple of weeks. One of the students in the pictures lodged a complaint about the pictures with the university’s Office of […]

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  • Staying Focused in the Penn Case

    December 2, 2005

    So the case at Penn involving the student who photographed a couple having sex pressed up against their dormitory window has been receiving a great deal of press. Much of it is doubtless due to the titillating nature of the case, as an article in Penn’s student newspaper, The Daily Pennsylvanian, effectively pointed out.   After all, it’s bizarre, it’s funny, and it includes nudity, PC, free speech issues, and an Ivy League school, which is an irresistible combination to any media outlet looking to catch people’s attention. However, as Alan Charles Kors points out, it essential not to lose […]

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  • Disturbing Indeed

    December 2, 2005

    Yesterday, Robert noted the controversy raging at the University of Pennsylvania over a student who was improperly charged with sexual harassment for, as the Philadelphia Inquirer nicely puts it today, having “photographed the bare backside of another student as she and her paramour apparently had sex in full view of the street below.” Not surprisingly, the picture was circulated widely on the Internet, as was Penn’s not-so-bright idea of going after a student for taking a picture of a public event that—again according to the Inquirer—had been taking place for “several days.”   Today, we’re happy to hear that Penn […]

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  • Penn Abuses Its Sexual Harassment Policy

    December 1, 2005

    Yet another story of the constant abuse of sexual harassment regulations is unfolding on one of America’s most prestigious campuses—the University of Pennsylvania, located right in FIRE’s backyard of Philadelphia. It seems that two adult students in a dormitory at Penn decided that they would engage in sexual activity, sans clothing, while pressed up against the glass of their dorm room window. Apparently this behavior went on for at least three days, and on the third day a student from a neighboring dorm took a photo of the couple and posted it on his Penn website. The student who captured […]

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  • Rights expert to represent photographer

    December 1, 2005

    A renowned defender of academic freedom of expression will represent an Engineering junior today in a case pitting student privacy against the First Amendment. Alan Kors, a Penn history professor, contacted the student yesterday offering to defend him during today’s meeting with Penn’s Office of Student Conduct and in all future proceedings regarding this matter. The student took pictures of a couple who appeared to be having sex against a window in Hamilton College House and posted the photographs on a University Internet server. Officials allege that in using the University’s server, the student violated Penn policy. The student’s name […]

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  • Sex-act pix shake Penn

    December 1, 2005

    WHEN A COUPLE performed a sexual act in front of a University of Pennsylvania dorm window earlier this year, at least two cameras clicked away. The couple’s faces are not identifiable. Only a pair of buttocks, a pair of legs and a bare back can be seen from the window. The gender is unclear. Yet the grainy photos have touched off a controversy that has roiled the Ivy League campus and once again has plunged Penn into a rip-roaring controversy over free speech and student rights. One of the photographers, an unidentified Penn junior engineering student, is facing sexual harassment […]

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  • Bush awards humanities medal to prof

    November 16, 2005

    Until last week, History professor Alan Kors had never been inside the White House. But that changed when the professor was one of 11 scholars and artists awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Bush in the Oval Office Thursday. “It’s a remarkable feeling to stand where former presidents and great figures have stood,” Kors said, “even for someone such as myself who believes in very small government.” First awarded in 1989, the National Humanities Medal recognizes professors, artists and other scholars who have made contributions to the humanities. All nominees are considered by members of the National Council on […]

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  • Dartmouth Praised for Taking Lead in ‘Free Expression’

    May 16, 2005

    Dartmouth College in New Hampshire is being lauded for leading the Ivy League “in respecting individual liberty and free expression.” Dartmouth no longer has a poor free-speech rating from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). The school had been under scrutiny for de-recognizing a fraternity for publishing an internal newsletter that insulted two female students. Following the incident, Dartmouth posted two letters on its website — one from the college president and one from the dean — justifying the punishment. But after being contacted by FIRE, the college removed those letters from the website. FIRE president David French […]

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  • Red Light, Green* Light

    May 13, 2005

    In what the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has called “a remarkable development for liberty on campus,” Dartmouth has cleared up the mystery surrounding the College’s speech code. General Counsel Robert Donin, in a May 2 communiqué (see inset), wrote to FIRE to “confirm that neither President James Wright’s May 10, 2001 letter nor Dean of the College James Larimore’s May 11, 2001 letter represents a binding statement of Dartmouth College policy or can be relied upon to support a complaint based on the content or viewpoint of controversial speech” [emphasis added]. The letters in question were authored […]

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  • Dartmouth trustee vote raises controversy

    May 13, 2005

    While Penn prepares to graduate a new class, alumni of Dartmouth College hope to finally see the end of a controversy over trustee elections. Unlike at Penn — where all new trustees are selected by the current board — Dartmouth alumni vote directly to elect seven of the 17 members of the Board of Trustees. With two such seats up for grabs this year, campaigning and politicking have reached unprecedented levels in Hanover, N.H. Much of the intensity stems from the fact that although Dartmouth’s Alumni Council, a group mostly made up of class- and alumni-group leaders, originally nominated four […]

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  • Fighting for students’ rights

    May 8, 2005

    University of Pennsylvania freshman Eden Jacobowitz was writing an English paper on Jan. 13, 1993, when he was distracted by students making a ruckus outside his dorm. He asked them to quiet down, and when the noise grew louder he shouted out his window: “Shut up, you water buffalo. If you want a party, there’s a zoo a mile from here.”   The members of a black sorority who were making the noise did not take kindly to Jacobowitz’s words. They reported him to the school’s judicial inquiry officer, who prosecuted Jacobowitz for violating the university’s racial harassment policy. Jacobowitz […]

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  • Our nutty professor beats theirs

    April 26, 2005

    As perhaps the leading defender of state pride, I wish to bring your attention to yet another area in which New Jersey leads the nation: nutty professors. Much has been made in the national media lately of a Colorado professor named Ward Churchill who made some loony remarks about the victims of the 9/11 attacks. But I am prepared to argue that we have here in our midst a professor who makes Churchill look sane by comparison. His name is Grover Furr and he teaches at Montclair State University. What does he teach? English literature, of course. It always seems […]

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  • A Not-So-Happy Easter at Penn Law

    March 31, 2005

    Last Friday, March 25 (which was Good Friday for most Christians), a tempest erupted at the University of Pennsylvania Law School here in Philadelphia. It seems that the Christian Legal Society (CLS) at Penn Law has a tradition of hiding plastic Easter eggs around the school on Good Friday for students to pick up. These eggs contain candy and a printed Bible verse, and the Bible verse can be taken to a CLS table and redeemed for more candy. Apparently this event has taken place without incident for a number of years.   Not this year. This year, CLS members […]

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  • Easter egg culprit admits to Law School prank

    March 31, 2005

    The culprit in a conflict over Easter eggs, anti-Jesus cartoons and free speech has finally come clean. George Black — a second-year Penn Law student — admitted early yesterday morning to hiding plastic eggs filled with cartoons that mocked Jesus throughout the Law School. Black left a typed confession note under the door of The Daily Pennsylvanian office at approximately 2 a.m. on Wednesday morning. The envelope read, “Jesus Christ! The confession of an Easter egg distributor.” In the letter, Black said he was responsible for distributing approximately 40 plastic eggs in the Law School early last Thursday morning. They […]

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  • Thought Reform 101

    March 1, 2000

    At Wake Forest University last fall, one of the few events designated as “mandatory” for freshman orientation was attendance at Blue Eyed, a filmed racism awareness workshop in which whites are abused, ridiculed, made to fail, and taught helpless passivity so that they can identify with “a person of color for a day.” In Swarthmore College’s dormitories, in the fall of 1998, first-year students were asked to line up by skin color, from lightest to darkest, and to step forward and talk about how they felt concerning their place in that line. Indeed, at almost all of our campuses, some […]

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