Bellevue Community College

Location: Bellevue, Washington
Website: http://www.bcc.ctc.edu
Type: No Type Yet
Federal Circuit: 9th Circuit

Speech Code Rating

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  • Bellevue Community College: Professor Punished for “Racially Insensitive” Exam Question

    May 5, 2006

    Bellevue Community College (BCC) has dropped its proposed punishment of Professor Peter Ratener, who composed a math exam problem that featured a woman named Condoleezza dropping a watermelon off the roof of a federal building. Ratener wrote the problem in 2004, but came under intense scrutiny after the exam question was made public in March, 2006. For seven months, FIRE opposed BCC’s attempt to suspend Ratener for a week without pay before BCC finally announced that it would not suspend Ratener.

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Not Rated Policies
  • Catalog: Student Code- Student Responsibilities 08-09

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies, Statement

    Any student shall be subject to disciplinary action as provided for in this chapter, who ... Commits any prohibited act including but not limited to the following: ... Engaging in unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature where such behavior knowingly offends the recipient, causes discomfort or humiliation, or interferes with job or school performance.

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  • Student Handbook: Posting 08-09

    Speech Code Category: Other Speech Codes, Statement

    BCC permits posting of materials in designated posting locations only, and requires the materials to
    be approved in advance at the Campus Business Center, room C105, or the Student Programs
    office, room C212.

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  • Student Handbook: Sexual Harassment 08-09

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies, Statement

    For general policy purposes, the term "sexual harassment" may include, without limitation, such
    behavior as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other physical or verbal
    conduct and expressive behavior of a sexual nature where:
    ...
    Such conduct has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual's
    academic or professional performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or demeaning
    employment or educational environment.

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  • Student Handbook: Student Rights and Freedoms 08-09

    Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression, Statement

    Students are guaranteed rights of free inquiry, expression, and peaceful assembly upon and within college facilities that are generally open and available to the public.

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This school does not have any media coverage at this time.
  • Spring 2007 ‘FIRE Quarterly’ Now Available

    May 24, 2007

    Check out our latest, newly re-designed issue of The FIRE Quarterly, which contains news updates on FIRE events and victories in cases at universities across the country. Some highlights from this edition include a look at our victory at San Francisco State University (SFSU), where FIRE stepped in to defend SFSU’s College Republicans after the school tried to punish them for stepping on makeshift Hezbollah and Hamas flags at an anti-terrorism rally. We also report on FIRE victories for freedom of association for Christian student groups at Brown University and at Pace University, and a victory for freedom of speech […]

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  • FIRE Quarterly: ‘From the Board of Directors’

    March 2, 2007

    Daphne Patai, a member of our Board of Directors, contributed to our recent edition of The FIRE Quarterly with a column reinforcing the importance of FIRE’s work after a year in which we saw so many attempts to limit student speech on campus. She wrote: Where restrictions on speech must, by law, be content-neutral, universities these days have the habit of taking it upon themselves to decide which points of view are to be protected by the First Amendment and which are not. Where the law prohibits harassment only if it is “persistent and pervasive” enough to interfere with an […]

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  • Victory for Free Speech at Bellevue Community College: College Drops Punishment of Professor for Politically Incorrect Math Question

    February 27, 2007

    FIRE’s long-fought case at Bellevue Community College (BCC) has finally drawn to a close. Last week, BCC announced that it would no longer pursue a week-long unpaid suspension of Professor Peter Ratener, who composed a math exam problem that featured a woman named Condoleezza dropping a watermelon off the roof of a federal building. Ratener wrote the problem in 2004, but came under intense scrutiny after the exam question was made public in March, 2006. Ratener responded to public outcry that he was a racist by issuing an apology for his gaffe, explaining that he attempted to use humor to […]

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  • Victory for Free Speech at Bellevue Community College: College Drops Punishment of Professor for Politically Incorrect Math Question

    February 27, 2007

    Bellevue Community College (BCC) has dropped its proposed punishment of Professor Peter Ratener, who composed a math exam problem that featured a woman named Condoleezza dropping a watermelon off the roof of a federal building. Ratener wrote the problem in 2004, but came under intense scrutiny after the exam question was made public in March, 2006. For the last seven months, FIRE has opposed BCC’s attempt to suspend Ratener for a week without pay. FIRE’s efforts proved successful last week when BCC announced that it would not suspend Ratener.

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  • Bellevue Community College Professor Still Waiting for Justice

    December 21, 2006

    Controversy has surrounded Bellevue Community College (BCC) Professor Peter Ratener ever since his case hit the news last year. Ratener had produced a math exam question that involved someone named Condoleezza throwing a watermelon off of a building. Even though he apologized profusely for any offense that question caused, BCC suspended Ratener for a week with loss of pay. Ratener has filed a grievance to get the suspension lifted, and the case currently awaits arbitration.   BCC has not budged since publicly castigating and suspending Ratener, and has even been lauded by the group Minority Access, Inc. as one of […]

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  • Election Day on Campus

    November 7, 2006

    While most universities nominally encourage students’ political activism, several universities have undermined students’ attempts to voice their political opinions in the weeks leading up to the midterm elections.   Lafayette College President Daniel Weiss cancelled a scheduled visit to campus by Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial candidate Lynn Swann, who was invited to speak on campus by the College Republicans. To his credit, Weiss admitted his mistake in an apology to the campus community. As Weiss stated that he plans to draft policies to ensure that Lafayette does not make the same mistake in the future, FIRE sent him a letter yesterday […]

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  • Freedom of Conscience Violated at Bellevue Community College

    November 6, 2006

    Bellevue Community College (BCC) has once again come under public criticism over a violation of its students’ First Amendment rights. On October 26, five students attempted to attend a political rally for Democratic candidate Maria Cantwell, the incumbent Washington Senator. The students wore T-shirts supporting the campaign of Cantwell’s opponent, Republican Mike McGavick. Organizers of the event refused entry to the students, some of whom had been required by a professor to attend. In reaction to this violation of freedom of conscience the ACLU of Washington wrote a letter to BCC on October 27 challenging the constitutionality of its actions. […]

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  • ‘Seattle Times’ Columnist Weighs In on Professor Peter Ratener

    October 4, 2006

    In today’s Seattle Times, opinion columnist Bruce Ramsey pens a column about Professor Peter Ratener of Bellevue Community College, whose case FIRE took up last month. For those who don’t remember, Professor Ratener had the misfortune to write a math exam question that involved both a watermelon and a person named Condoleezza, leading to punishment from his college. Ramsey’s column looks at the issue from the perspective of other Bellevue professors—and what he finds isn’t good news for those who care about free speech on campus. Key quote: “What I learned last spring,” says a BCC prof, “is that if […]

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  • Bellevue Community College Named Leader in Diversity

    September 27, 2006

    Earlier this month, FIRE reported that Bellevue Community College (BCC) decided to suspend Professor Peter Ratener for a week without pay for his now infamous math question featuring Condoleezza and a watermelon. BCC has still not reversed this decision, which is set for arbitration. While BCC’s overreaction to Ratener’s question has outraged fans of free speech and fundamental fairness, it has pleased others. The organization Minority Access, Inc., a group dedicated to “implementing programs to improve the higher educational, professional and managerial employment of minorities,” has dubbed BCC one of the “Nation’s Leading Colleges and Universities Committed to Diversity.” BCC […]

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  • Columbia University: Land of the Free?

    September 25, 2006

    On the same day last week, Columbia University announced that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had been invited to speak on campus and then, a few hours later, revoked that same invitation. Although the entire situation presents many issues relating to free speech and academic freedom, I was most struck by a statement that Columbia President Lee Bollinger made shortly after news of the controversial invitation broke. While defending the invitation, he proclaimed his love for freedom of speech and the marketplace of ideas. The Columbia Spectator reported that: Bollinger said he believes students and faculty will use the opportunity to […]

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  • The Watermelon Rolls On

    September 20, 2006

    It’s been about a week since FIRE went public with our opposition to Bellevue Community College’s treatment of Professor Peter Ratener for writing a math exam question that involved a person named “Condoleezza” dropping a watermelon off of a roof. Reaction to this case has been strong, and more varied than usual. In my opinion, this is partially because Ratener has walked into a perfect storm, with conservatives angry about what they perceive as mockery of Condoleezza Rice, and liberals angry about Ratener’s raising, wittingly or unwittingly, of a racial stereotype. I want to reiterate that it is FIRE’s opinion, […]

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  • Race to vilify math professor wrong response says FIRE

    September 20, 2006

    A veteran professor at a community college in Seattle is protesting the school’s decision to suspend him over what it calls a “racist” math exam question. The math test question written by Bellevue Community College (BCC) professor Peter Ratener in 2004 involved a person named “Condoleezza” tossing a watermelon from the top of a building. Last spring a student complained that the question was racially offensive. In response, the college’s Board of Trustees called Ratener’s conduct a “gross violation of BCC’s mission and core values of respect for diversity.” Ratener than apologized for the question and explained his intent was […]

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  • No Benefit of the Doubt for Ratener

    September 15, 2006

    Check out the article in this morning’s edition of Washington’s King County Journal about Peter Ratener at Bellevue Community College (BCC). The article points out that Ratener has apologized profusely for his math question gaffe, and finally enlisted FIRE’s help after BCC caved to “some leaders of the local black community” who “urged the board to take strong action, including termination.”Ratener told the King County Journal that “There has been an organized attack on me and the school and I needed an organization fighting for me.” The article continues: Greg Lukianoff, president of FIRE, said the discussion generated by Ratener’s […]

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  • BCC professor continues to fight his one-week suspension

    September 15, 2006

    A Bellevue Community College professor who was disciplined last spring for writing a racially insensitive test question, has enlisted an organization concerned about freedom of speech issues on college campuses to help fight his one-week suspension. Peter Ratener, a math professor at BCC for 26 years with no prior complaints against him, issued an emotional public apology at a BCC Board of Trustees meeting in April, saying he’d made an “egregious,” but unintentional mistake. But some leaders of the local black community questioned how Ratener could make such a mistake and urged the board to take strong action, including termination. […]

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  • The Response to Ratener and the ‘Racist’ Math Problem

    September 14, 2006

    Yesterday’s press release, in which we defended the rights of Professor Peter Ratener at Bellevue Community College (BCC) in Washington State, has sparked some strong reaction. Some of the reactions were fully anticipated, others have been fairly surprising. As readers know, and as was well-covered today in Inside Higher Ed, BCC decided to suspend Ratener for writing a math exam question that involved a person named “Condoleezza” dropping a watermelon from the top of a building. Unsurprisingly, many readers reacted to FIRE’s conclusion that the apparent reference to a racial stereotype was inadvertent. We carefully researched the case—as we always […]

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  • Ratener’s Situation Not So Novel

    September 14, 2006

    Instead of ascribing racist or politically biased motivations to Peter Ratener’s test question, we should realize that professors include interesting content in tests all the time. On Ratener’s exam, the very next question after the one mentioning Condoleezza features a “Professor Flunkem,” obviously in an attempt to introduce some levity into the test-taking scenario. And when I was a student at Colby College, I had a math professor who routinely included names of other professors, cultural events from nearby Maine towns, and other feeble attempts at jokes in order to make the test more interesting. Long-time FIRE supporter Rich Zeller […]

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  • College flunks professor over test

    September 14, 2006

    The background for three questions that angered many at Bellevue Community College started like this: “Condoleezza holds a watermelon just over the edge of roof of the 300-foot Federal Building, and tosses it up with a velocity of 20 feet per second….” Forget velocity — the question set off protests at the college, which is near Seattle, and infuriated civil rights groups. While no last name was given, people took the question as a reference to the secretary of state, and combining her name with watermelon was viewed as racist. The professor who wrote the question apologized, and the college’s […]

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  • Bellevue’s Overreaction, Part II

    September 13, 2006

    Today’s FIRE press release dealt with the case of Professor Peter Ratener at Bellevue Community College (BCC) in Washington state, who has been suspended for a week for writing a supposedly “racist” math problem. Suspending a professor for a week for such speech—especially when one of your deans has acknowledged that the “offensive” message was unintentional—is an absurd and unconstitutional overreaction. Unfortunately, though, as is all too common in higher education these days, the college did not stop overreacting once it punished Ratener. As history professor David Beito’s blog entry over on the History News Network recounts, BCC decided that […]

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  • Professor Suspended for Condoleezza Math Problem

    September 13, 2006

    Today’s press release discusses the case of Professor Peter Ratener at Bellevue Community College (BCC) in Washington state. Ratener was in the news last spring for having composed a math exam question featuring someone named Condoleezza dropping a watermelon from the roof of a federal building. On April 15, BCC’s Board of Trustees condemned Ratener in a public statement that said, “We…are deeply offended by the conduct of a math instructor at Bellevue Community College and strongly condemn this offensive behavior. This behavior is a gross violation of BCC’s mission and core value of respect for diversity.” The Trustees then […]

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  • Community College Suspends Professor for ‘Racist’ Math Problem

    September 13, 2006

    SEATTLE, September 13, 2006—Bellevue Community College (BCC) near Seattle has decided to suspend a professor for composing a math exam question that involved a person named “Condoleezza” dropping a watermelon from the top of a building—a question that originally featured the comedian “Gallagher.” After months of public outcry, BCC informed Professor Peter Ratener that he would be suspended for a week without pay for his “offensive” question. Ratener then contacted the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help. “Given the reaction of the community and the college, one might think that Ratener was guilty of committing a serious […]

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  • FIRE Letter to Bellevue Community College President Jean Floten, August 28, 2006

    August 28, 2006

    August 28, 2006 President Jean Floten Bellevue Community College 3000 Landerholm Circle SE Bellevue, Washington 98007 Sent via U.S. Mail and Facsimile (425-564-2261) Dear President Floten: As you can see from our Directors and Board of Advisors, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) unites leaders in the fields of civil rights and civil liberties, scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of liberty, legal equality, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, due process, and, in this case, academic freedom, on America’s college campuses. Our web page, www.thefire.org, will give you a greater […]

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