Location: Binghamton, New York
Federal Circuit: 2nd Circuit
Binghamton University, State University of New York 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.
September 21, 2009
Binghamton University graduate student Michael Gutsell was expelled by the Department of Social Work following two incidents where his classroom speech drew complaints from fellow students. Despite the fact that the speech was relevant to the class and broke no university or department rules, the hearing panel recommended his dismissal. After appealing the decision, however, Gutsell learned that these two incidents were “not the primary basis” for his expulsion, and that BU may have determined that he was unfit for social work because he was not conforming to others’ subjective expectations about individuals’ proper conversational style, even outside of the […]» Read More
Binghamton University: Student Suspended for Posters Criticizing Department of Social Work and Government Agency
October 29, 2008
Under pressure from FIRE, Binghamton University (formerly SUNY-Binghamton) abandoned its attempt to suspend or expel a student who put up posters challenging the Department of Social Work. Social work master’s student Andre Massena thought the Binghamton Housing Authority (BHA) was responsible for social injustice, so he put up pseudonymous posters challenging the department for having hired the BHA’s executive director as a faculty member. The department then ordered that Massena leave the program for one year with no guarantee of return, required him to apologize, and demanded that he publicly disavow his own views. When Massena appealed, the department’s chair […]» Read More
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In addition to preventing and prosecuting hate/bias crimes, New York State University Police, staff in the Division of Student Affairs, the University Ombudsman and the Affirmative Action Office assist in addressing bias-related activities that do not rise to the level of a crime. These activities, referred to as bias incidents and defined by the University as acts of bigotry, harassment or intimidation
directed at a member or group within the Binghamton University community based on national origin, ethnicity, race, age, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, veteran status, color, creed or marital status, may be addressed through the State University of New York’s Discrimination Complaint Procedure or the Rules of Student Conduct. Bias incidents may be reported to University Police
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No user may use the University’s computers or networks to libel, slander or harass any other person.
The First Amendment protects freedom of speech, of the press, of association, of assembly, and of petition from suppression by the government. These constitutional guarantees, collectively known as the right to freedom of expression, are essential to the mission of Binghamton University.
sexual favors, and/or other unwelcomed verbal or physical conduct of a sexual
nature that substantially interferes with a person’s performance or creates an
intimidating, hostile or offensive environment.
Throughout its history, Binghamton has maintained a tradition of open communication and freedom of expression. It recognizes that the university is a traditional sphere of free expression fundamental to the functioning of our society. The Binghamton President’s Commission on Free Speech and Academic Freedom (1992) affirms the academic freedom of students as well as professors: “Students have freedom to exercise their intellectual curiosity, to draw conclusions for themselves and to express their own opinions, no matter how controversial, [and] without fear [of reprisal].”
The concepts of academic freedom and an open exchange of ideas are essential to the mission of any educational institution. Binghamton University is committed to these ideals, and as a public institution is legally obligated to protect its members’ First Amendment right of freedom of expression. Respect for this right requires that members of the University tolerate the expression of views that are contrary to their own, and recognize that the expression of ideas that are intolerant, bigoted or deeply offensive are entitled to First Amendment protection. Equally important, however, is the understanding that free expression carries with it the responsibility of civility and respect for others. The University views conduct intended to disparage or demean others as contrary to the pursuit of knowledge and rational discourse. So-called “speech codes” have been deemed unconstitutional by the courts. Therefore, while Binghamton University does not condone incivility within the campus community, it has not adopted a policy to prohibit offensive speech. Moreover, Binghamton has a proud history of inviting and encouraging the expression of diverse views.
Binghamton University’s policy against sexual harassment accords with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidelines originally issued in 1980 and updated in 1990. The EEOC defines sexual harassment as “Unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when … such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment.”
Harassment is generally understood to occur when the conduct of an individual or group of individuals has the intent or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s or group of individuals’ educational or work environment or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) describes harassment based on protected class, including sexual harassment, as offensive conduct that is so severe, pervasive or objectively offensive that it creates an unreasonable and substantial interference with the ability of a member of a protected class to participate in the academic or employment setting.
September 1, 2010
Civil-rights organization highlights universities that are ‘unrepentant’ violators by Bob Unruh WorldNetDaily A permanent blemish on a student’s record for a parody, an attempted expulsion for criticism of a “social injustice” and the formal censorship of a political satire: All of these actions have earned American colleges and universities a citation in a full-page ad in U.S. News & World Report’s 2011 edition of its “Best Colleges” issue. The ad warns parents and students to “think twice” about considering attending the schools. The ad was taken out by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which highlighted Bucknell University, […]» Read More
August 31, 2010
by Greg Lukianoff The Huffington post Today, for the third year in a row, my organization, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, took out a full-page ad in the college rankings edition of U.S. News & World Report to highlight abuses of free speech on campus. This year, the ad focuses on the outrageous case of Andre Massena at SUNY Binghamton. We also prepared a short video about his case: While the complete details of Massena’s case would be enough for a full-length documentary or a feature article, a quick summary of the case goes like this: Andre […]» Read More
December 23, 2008
The State University of New York at Binghamton tried unsuccessfully this fall to suspend a social-work student after he displayed posters criticizing an adjunct instructor at the university. Now, the student says, the social-work department is trying to force him out by unfairly giving him bad grades. The student – Andre Massena – is enrolled in the master’s program in social work. Last summer he tacked up posters on the campus criticizing the Binghamton Housing Authority for evicting a single mother and her children, and asking people to call the social-work department to complain. David K. Tanenhaus, the housing authority’s […]» Read More
November 14, 2008
The social-work department at the State University of New York at Binghamton wants a graduate student to withdraw for a year after he put up posters on the campus criticizing the Binghamton Housing Authority and an adjunct professor in the department who heads the authority. The student, Andre Massena, is enrolled in the master’s program in social work. To read the complete article, you must have a subscription to The Chronicle online.» Read More
September 27, 2013
Students at colleges across the country are encouraging their peers to exercise their right to free speech by building “free speech walls” on their campuses—displays where students can write or draw whatever they want. Free speech walls are a great way for students to share ideas in a public way. For example, student group Dorm Room Diplomacy at Binghamton University in New York set up a wall last week that was filled with everything “from animal drawings to political statements,” according to Pipe Dream, the school’s student newspaper. Pipe Dream reported: Although most of the postings on the wall were […]» Read More
October 30, 2012
This fall, FIRE is writing a blog series about how schools can reform their problematic speech codes and earn a “green light” rating from FIRE—a distinction currently awarded to just 16 of the more than 400 schools in our Spotlight database, but one we hope to be able to award to many more in the years to come. In this series, we are discussing common problems with campus speech codes, focusing on examples from schools that are just a few small changes away from earning a green light rating. So far, we have examined how universities restrict speech by mandating “civility,” […]» Read More
February 2, 2011
The Pipe Dream, an independent student newspaper at Binghamton University in New York, writes this week on Binghamton’s inclusion on FIRE’s “12 Worst Schools for Free Speech,” as featured in The Huffington Post. Azhar has already done quite a nice job for FIRE in explaining what Binghamton has done to earn its place on the list—namely, the near-expulsion of social work student Andre Massena and the successful expulsion of social work student Michael Gutsell—so I suggest you read his post if you haven’t. Binghamton Senior Director of Media and Public Relations Gail Glover offered brief comments for the article, however, which […]» Read More
February 1, 2011
By now, I hope you’ve had a chance to read our list of the “12 Worst Colleges for Free Speech,” which we highlighted on The Huffington Post last week. Our “Dirty Dozen”—which is made up of the six colleges and universities on our Red Alert list, as well as six other institutions that have shown a profound disregard for free speech rights over the years—has quickly generated a good deal of attention and response. Peter explained on Friday why DePaul University was one of the schools outside of our Red Alert list to be selected for this dubious distinction. Today, […]» Read More
January 27, 2011
Today, The Huffington Post published FIRE’s list of America’s 12 Worst Schools for Free Speech. An expansion of FIRE’s Red Alert List of the “worst of the worst” schools for student and faculty rights, this “dirty dozen” slideshow includes the schools that come onto FIRE’s radar screen again and again for their repeated and egregious violations of fundamental rights, as well as schools whose policies are so bad that they simply had to be included. For longtime Torch readers, the presence of most of these schools on our list won’t come as a surprise. But we don’t want to give it all away here. Is […]» Read More
May 1, 2009
It seems like every week we’re reporting that FIRE’s short film on the University of Delaware’s experiment in thought reform has doubled the amount of views received on YouTube from the week before—a trend I’m all too happy to continue. This week the folks at Reason (which—throwback!—published Alan Charles Kors’ article “Thought Reform 101″ back in 2000) gave FIRE an extra hand by blogging about the video on their website, helping to push it toward 50,000 views. Thought reform at Delaware was also the subject of Robert’s article this week for Pajamas Media. Robert also discussed Virginia Tech’s efforts at […]» Read More
March 13, 2009
As Will wrote earlier in the week, FIRE has seen far too many instances of students’ First Amendment rights being thrown out the window when used to support Second Amendment rights. FIRE has been all over the news concerning the most recent instance of this, in which a student at Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) was reported to the police by his professor and subjected to an interrogation on the basis of a class presentation he had given in favor of concealed carry rights on campus. Building on a FoxNews.com front-page story (tipped this week in an editorial on the […]» Read More
February 18, 2009
This month’s issue of the Binghamton Review features an interview with Adam Kissel, Director of FIRE’s Individual Rights Defense Program, in which Adam discusses FIRE’s speech code ratings and what has earned Binghamton University (BU) its current “yellow-light” rating on Spotlight: The Campus Freedom Resource. The interview, conducted by CFN member Adam Shamah ’11, is timely, given the problems FIRE has confronted at Binghamton in recent months. Torch readers should be well aware of the abhorrent treatment of social work graduate student Andre Massena by the BU Department of Social Work, which ordered his suspension for posting flyers critical of […]» Read More
2008 Highlights: FIRE Places Full-Page Ad in ‘U.S. News & World Report’ Calling Out ‘Red Alert’ Schools
December 31, 2008
While FIRE works on cases from hundreds of schools in a given year, we have a special list for those schools that have shown unique intransigence in the face of criticism from FIRE for abusing student and faculty rights. We call that special list our Red Alert list, and right now five schools have earned a spot among the “worst of the worst.” This summer, we decided to step up our campaign for reform at Red Alert schools by running a full-page ad in the 2009 edition of U.S. News & World Report‘s all-important America’s Best Colleges issue, right next […]» Read More
November 17, 2008
I reported last Thursday and Friday on the case of Binghamton University (formerly SUNY–Binghamton) social work master’s student Andre Massena, who faced suspension or expulsion after he put up posters challenging the Department of Social Work. The department had ordered that he leave the program for one year with no guarantee of return, required him to apologize, and demanded that he publicly disavow his own views after his pseudonymous posters challenged the department for having hired the executive director of the Binghamton Housing Authority (BHA)—an agency Massena thought was responsible for social injustice. When Massena appealed, the department’s chair, Laura […]» Read More
Binghamton University Department of Social Work Declares War on Student for Posters Criticizing Department and Government Agency
November 13, 2008
Today’s press release paints a very disturbing picture of Binghamton University’s Department of Social Work. The department ordered the suspension of a master’s student for one year with no guarantee of return, required him to apologize, and demanded that he publicly disavow his own views after he put up posters challenging the department for having hired the executive director of the Binghamton Housing Authority (BHA)—an agency the student thought was responsible for social injustice. Student Andre Massena remains in school pending an appeal, which is to be heard tomorrow afternoon. On August 25, 2008, Massena put up posters on campus […]» Read More
September 23, 2005
But it should be. All it takes for a university to earn a “green light” rating from FIRE is for the university not to maintain any policies that violate the First Amendment rights of its students and faculty. Sadly, however, few schools have a green light rating. One school, SUNY Binghamton, is so close to a green light that FIRE wants to take this opportunity to draw attention to its policies in the hopes that it will decide to fully honor its own stated commitments to freedom of speech by upholding the First Amendment rights of its students and faculty. […]» Read More