Location: Amherst, Massachusetts
Federal Circuit: 1st Circuit
Amherst College has been given the speech code rating Yellow. Yellow light colleges and universities are those institutions with at least one ambiguous policy that too easily encourages administrative abuse and arbitrary application. Read more here.
Respect for the rights, dignity and integrity of others is essential for the well-being of a community. Actions by any persons which do not reflect such respect for others are damaging to each member of the community and hence damaging to Amherst College. Each member of the community should be free from interference, discrimination, intimidation, sexual harassment, or disparagement in the classroom, the social, recreational, and residential environment or the work place. Any behavior which constitutes sexual harassment or other verbal or physical abuse of any member of the community for reasons that include but are not limited to race, color, religion, national origin, ethnic identification, age, political affiliation or belief, sexual orientation, gender, economic status, or physical or mental disability, will be regarded as a serious violation of the Honor Code, and anyone found guilty of such behavior will be disciplined.
Sexual harassment is any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favors, or other unwelcome verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when: … Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work or academic performance by creating an intimidating, hostile, humiliating, demeaning, or sexually offensive working, academic or social environment. The effect will be evaluated based on the perspective of a reasonable person in the position of a Complainant.
Examples of behavior that might be considered misconduct include, but are not limited to: * Unwanted or inappropriate sexual innuendo, propositions, sexual attention or suggestive comments and gestures; humor and jokes about sex or gender-specific traits; sexual slurs or derogatory language directed at another person’s sexuality or gender; insults and threats based on sex or gender; and other oral, written or electronic communications of a sexual nature that an individual communicates is unwanted and unwelcome; … Non-academic display or circulation of written materials or pictures degrading to an individual(s) or gender group (It is expected that instructors will offer appropriate warning regarding the introduction of explicit and triggering materials used in the classroom.); … *Demeaning verbal or other expressive behavior of a sexual or gendered nature in instructional settings; and Acts of verbal, nonverbal, or physical aggression, intimidation, or hostility based on sex or sex-stereotyping. Harassment for exhibiting what is perceived as a stereotypical characteristic for one’s sex, or for failing to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity and femininity, regardless of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity of the harasser or target.
Theft or other abuse of computer time, including but not limited to: … Use of computing facilities to send obscene or abusive messages.
Under this policy, sexual harassment includes but is not limited to sexual assault, sexual exploitation, stalking, cyber-stalking, bullying and cyber-bullying, aiding or facilitating the commission of a violation, and retaliation.
Consistent with the values of an educational and employment environment free from harassment based on sex, the College also prohibits gender-based harassment, which may include acts of verbal, nonverbal, or physical aggression, intimidation, or hostility based on sex or sex-stereotyping, even if those acts do not involve conduct of a sexual nature.
Subject to respect for the rights of others, every student enjoys the assurance of the full exercise of those rights expressed in the Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities and the preceding three Statements, including but not limited to the following specific rights:
The right to engage in the free exchange of ideas.
The right to protest and to dissent in a peaceable manner and to join with others in other non-violent forms of common action.
The right to complain of injustice and to bring grievances to the appropriate offices of the College without fear of retaliation.
Amherst College prizes and defends freedom of speech and dissent. It affirms the right of teachers and students to teach and learn, free from coercive force and intimidation and subject only to the constraints of reasoned discourse and peaceful conduct. It also recognizes that such freedoms and rights entail responsibility for one’s actions. Thus, every student bears the responsibility to protect the rights of all to express their views so long as there is neither use nor threat of force nor interference with the rights of others. Demonstrated cases of disruption of classes (whether, for example, by the abridgement of free expression in a class or by obstructing access to the place in which the class normally meets) or similarly of other academic activities will be regarded as serious breaches of this Statement and community standards and will receive appropriate sanctions.
January 8, 2013
This winter, FIRE is presenting a blog series on the state of free speech at America’s top 10 liberal arts colleges, as ranked by U.S. News & World Report (a list that actually includes 11 schools, since two—Claremont McKenna College and Vassar College—are tied for the #10 spot). Before the new year, we told you about speech codes at Williams College. Today, we kick off 2013 with a discussion of the state of free speech at Amherst College in Massachusetts. Like Williams, Amherst receives a “yellow light” rating from FIRE, because several of its policies could too easily be abused […]» Read More
October 16, 2012
Last week, FIRE kicked off a blog series about how schools can reform problematic speech codes with a discussion of why mandating “civility” is inconsistent with students’ right to free speech. This week, we are tackling another trouble spot for free speech: the harassment policy. As an initial matter, campus harassment policies can be divided into two categories: policies prohibiting discriminatory harassment (including sexual harassment) and policies prohibiting general harassment (including threats and stalking). It will be most useful to discuss these categories separately. Discriminatory Harassment Federal anti-discrimination law requires colleges and universities receiving federal funding (which is virtually all […]» Read More
Jewish Group at Amherst College Receives Funding After AAS Senate Debate, but Concerns Remain about Senate Funding Policies
February 25, 2011
According to a column by Romen Borsellino in The Amherst Student, the Association of Amherst Students (AAS) Senate at Amherst College, of which Borsellingo is a member, debated during a meeting on February 14 whether a new Jewish student organization, the Jew Crew, should receive funding for an event. Detractors claimed that the Jew Crew was too similar to the existing Jewish student organization on campus, Hillel, while supporters noted that the two served different purposes. Eventually, the AAS Senate reached an almost unanimous decision to fund the event. While this is good news for the Jew Crew, the broader implications […]» Read More