Location: Ithaca, New York
Federal Circuit: 2nd Circuit
Cornell University 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.
October 20, 2008
A pro-life student group’s university approved signs were confiscated by an administrator shortly after students erected their display. The signs contained information regarding fetal development. The students were forced to turn to the university police in order to regain their property because the administrator could not believe the signs could be approved given their “content.” Amazingly, the Cornell administration is defending this indefensible action, pretending that it was only a misunderstanding that caused the display to be confiscated and removed.» Read More
Any behavior that disturbs another member(s) of the community can result in judicial action.
Behavior in common areas should conform to the standards of the community as a whole. Loud, offensive, or lewd behavior or language directed at anyone (including staff) is not acceptable. Residents should exercise good judgment and demonstrate consideration of others when using common areas.
Prohibited Discrimination, Protected-Status Harassment, Sexual Harassment, and Sexual Assault and Violence 13-14
Bias activity is defined as an act of bigotry, harassment, or intimidation that occurs on the Cornell campus or within an area that impacts the Cornell community that targets an individual or group based on EEEO-protected status. Although bias is not always a violation of the law or of this policy, such behavior does impact the university’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.
Events that must be registered using the EventReg form includes (but are not limited to): … Events that take place outdoors. … Events that may be seen as controversial and/or high risk. … Events should be registered at least three weeks prior to the start date. Student organizations may be fined for late filing, or lack of filing a Event Registration form (see http://sao.cornell.edu/SO/docs/uup.pdf for more information).
The rally space is located on Ho Plaza between WSH and the Campus Store. To reserve this space, organizations must submit a request on-line at http://registrar.sas.cornell.edu/Sched/R25/ and complete the UUP form.
To intentionally harass another person by … by acting toward that person in a manner that is by objective measure threatening, abusive, or severely annoying and that is beyond the scope of free speech.
Because it is a special kind of community, whose purpose is the discovery of truth through the practice of free inquiry, a university has an essential dependence on a commitment to the values of unintimidated speech. To curb speech on the grounds that an invited speaker is noxious, that a cause is evil, or that such ideas will offend some listeners is therefore inconsistent with a university’s purpose. One may argue against inviting a speaker on the grounds that the speaker has nothing of importance to say. But once members of the university community extend an invitation, others may not disrupt the speech on the grounds that they find it stupid, immoral, or dangerous.
It shall be a violation of this Title: … to interfere with or attempt to interfere with the lawful exercise of freedom of speech, freedom of movement, freedom of peaceable assembly, or other right of an individual….
Prohibited Discrimination, Protected-Status Harassment, Sexual Harassment, and Sexual Assault and Violence 13-14
Protected-status harassment, including sexual harassment, occurs when an individual is targeted with verbal, written, visual, or physical conduct based on that person’s EEEO-protected status that unreasonably interferes with the individual’s work or academic performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working or learning environment. The conduct constitutes harassment under any of the following conditions: … The conduct is sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim’s employment or academic pursuits, and creates a work or educational environment that a reasonable person would find abusive.
Federal, state, and local laws apply to the Internet and “cyberspace” just as they do to physical space. Using the university’s IT resources in a way that violates the law constitutes a violation of university policy.
September 2, 2009
Student activism is a long-standing tradition at Cornell, and the University’s creed pledges full and equal protection of students’ rights; but there is a devil in the details. Cornell’s policies on harassment, tolerance, respect and civility contain so-called speech codes – “Trojan horses” embedded within University guidelines that limit the scope of free speech on campus. William Creeley, director of legal and public advocacy for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, addressed this topic, and the overlying issue of students’ First Amendment rights, yesterday evening in Goldwin Smith Hall. “There’s a discrepancy,” he said. “They promise with one hand […]» Read More
October 27, 2008
Especially in the midst of a hard-fought presidential campaign, free expression on college campuses remains a heated topic, with reports of student vandalism of political displays they don’t like, or administrations disinviting speakers who are deemed too controversial, surfacing periodically. Since students in college tend to be more liberal as a group than Americans as a whole, critics of higher education regularly charge that conservative views are more likely to be squelched by vandals or officials. But that’s not entirely the case: some Catholic institutions, for instance, have received flak or distanced themselves from pro-life speakers who support Barack Obama […]» Read More
February 22, 2006
Four Syracuse University students punished for trashing their teacher on Facebook.com joined the growing number of students nationally whose school has held them accountable for what they put on the Internet. “Criticism can be considered a matter of free speech. In this particular situation it was the content, and the content was considered as being reviewable as a possible violation of the university code of student conduct,” said Kevin Morrow, speaking for SU. “The language and the phrasing of these Facebook postings were extreme.” Some students use Facebook.com as their personal diary. They post pictures and information such as their […]» Read More
April 14, 2004
In far too many instances, what passes as college life and education today is no less than shameful. Under the name of diversity and political correctness, billions of taxpayer dollars and donor contributions are used to promote what might be charitably called enlightened racism, uniformity of thought and political proselytizing. Let’s look at some of it.The student code of Shippensburg University, in Pennsylvania, said that students had a “right to express a personal belief system” but only if such expression did not “demean,” “annoy” or “alarm” others. Thus, if a student expressed a distaste for race or sex preferences in […]» Read More
April 27, 2012
Yesterday, I discussed the ramifications of the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights’ (OCR’s) April 4, 2011, “Dear Colleague” letter for students at the University of North Carolina, which decided earlier this month to inaugurate a new “two-tier” disciplinary system to comply with OCR’s procedural mandates. Under the newly revised system, UNC students accused of misconduct like cheating, plagiarism, or drug and alcohol abuse will face a hearing using the “beyond a reasonable doubt” evidentiary standard employed in our criminal justice system, which has also traditionally been applied by UNC’s century-old Student Honor Court. In contrast, students facing serious […]» Read More
April 11, 2012
Yesterday, FIRE asked Cornell University President David Skorton to choose robust student due process rights over the weak evidentiary standard required by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR). In our letter, we argue that given the high stakes for students accused of sexual assault, they deserve much more than the “preponderance of the evidence” (more likely than not) evidentiary standard. Torch readers know that FIRE and many others have made this argument repeatedly, and in many forums, in the year following the release of OCR’s April 4, 2011, “Dear Colleague” letter. As we wrote yesterday, Cornell […]» Read More
April 10, 2012
Cornell University graduate Mike Wacker has an excellent column in today’s Cornell Sun on the debate at Cornell over complying with the Department of Education’s April 4, 2011, “Dear Colleague” letter (DCL). As FIRE has pointed out, the DCL strips important due process protections from students accused of sexual harassment or sexual assault. Wacker hits on many of the problems that Cornell students and faculty members are having with the idea that campus trials for these serious offenses will now be far less thorough and reliable than those for, say, vandalism. The entire column is a must-read. After summarizing the […]» Read More
April 30, 2010
Grant Farred, an English and Africana Studies professor at Cornell University, has found himself under fire recently following a comment he made to two graduate students at a conference in February. Following the conclusion of a conference panel to which he had invited the students, both African-American females, to attend, Professor Farred allegedly said to them in private, “When you both walked in, I thought, ‘Who are these black bitches?’” When the students later told Farred that they were offended by his remark, he quickly apologized and stated that he meant no harm. It would seem that Farred was simply […]» Read More
Following President’s Statement, Cornell’s Religious Student Groups Should Brace for Disparate Treatment
April 15, 2010
Last week, I discussed Cornell University President David J. Skorton’s response to Student Assembly Resolution 44, which proposes to revise Cornell’s non-discrimination policy to restrict the ability of student groups to require that their voting members and leaders actually share the group’s core beliefs. The resolution, which passed the Student Assembly by a narrow vote back in February, requires Skorton’s approval before final adoption. However, as he did when presented with a similar resolution in 2009 (after being pressed by FIRE), Skorton declined to assent to the resolution without requesting changes and commenting further. Now that a few days have […]» Read More
April 6, 2010
Cornell University President David J. Skorton issued a response yesterday afternoon to a Student Assembly (SA) resolution, narrowly passed in February, that seeks to limit the ability of student groups to require that their voting members and leaders actually share the group’s core beliefs. He has asked the SA to reconsider important parts of the resolution. Resolution 44, which requires President Skorton’s approval before enactment, states that student groups shall not discriminate on the basis of actual or perceived age, ancestry or ethnicity, color, creed, disability, gender, gender identity or expression, height, immigration or citizenship status, marital status, national origin, […]» Read More
February 12, 2010
Yesterday, Azhar wrote here on The Torch about the Cornell University Assembly’s (UA’s) decision this week to insert a new non-discrimination clause into the Campus Code of Conduct. As Azhar pointed out: Cornell has in the recent past used a non-discrimination rationale to deny a student organization, the Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship, the right to associate around shared beliefs. Last year, the Student Assembly froze the group’s funding because it removed a member from a leadership position after the student disavowed core tenets of the group’s beliefs. Given the misunderstanding of the freedom of association on Cornell’s campus, there is […]» Read More
Cornell University Assembly Votes to Pass Disputed Non-Discrimination Clause in Campus Code of Conduct
February 11, 2010
Cornell University’s University Assembly (UA) voted yesterday to include a disputed non-discrimination clause in the Campus Code of Conduct, the Cornell Daily Sun reports. The new clause, which expands the category of classes protected against discriminatory harassment on campus, provides insufficient protection for campus speech insofar as it applies a substantive standard for student-on-student harassment that falls short of the legal standard for peer harassment in education. The approved clause is the UA’s second attempt to add new language about discrimination in the student code; a first draft was approved by the UA last April, but Cornell President David J. […]» Read More
‘Cornell Daily Sun’ Explores Important Freedom of Association Issue, Previews Upcoming Supreme Court Decision in ‘Martinez’
January 20, 2010
An article in yesterday’s Cornell Daily Sun, a student newspaper at Cornell University, discusses the conflict between student organizations’ freedom of association and their schools’ nondiscrimination policies that has been at issue on many college campuses in recent years. Sun reporter Dani Neuharth-Keusch discusses the issue as it relates to an episode right on Cornell’s campus last year as well as the Supreme Court’s upcoming decision in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, for which FIRE will be submitting an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief. We’re pleased to see the Sun pay such close attention to Martinez and the […]» Read More
January 6, 2010
For the past few days FIRE has been looking back over our list of accomplishments in 2009. That list would not be complete without mentioning the students who have worked so hard to make their campuses more free. At the College of William & Mary, former FIRE intern and Campus Freedom Network member Braum Katz led a reform effort from within the student government as Student Assembly Secretary of Student Rights to revise all constitutionally problematic speech codes. In October, William & Mary eliminated the last of its troublesome policies and FIRE officially gave the college’s policies a green-light rating in […]» Read More
November 25, 2009
A disappointingly misguided editorial in yesterday’s Cornell Sun argues that a recent vote by Cornell’s University Assembly to protect freedom of association on campus amounts to an endorsement of “discrimination.” Unfortunately, The Sun‘s faulty reasoning reveals a meager understanding of the right to expressive association—a right protected by the First Amendment and decades of Supreme Court jurisprudence. As Luke explained here on The Torch yesterday, the University Assembly voted late last month to scuttle changes to Cornell’s Campus Code of Conduct that it had recommended in April. The proposed changes sought to prevent student groups from “discriminating against” students by […]» Read More
November 23, 2009
The Cornell University Assembly has voted to remove part of a proposed policy in the Campus Code of Conduct that posed a significant threat to freedom of association. The Cornell Sun reports: After months of deliberation, the University Assembly passed a resolution this October to remove a clause from the Campus Code of Conduct designed to prevent special-interest student organizations from discriminating against certain groups in their criteria for membership. The resolution cited the need for more extensive debate on “the interplay of discrimination, freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom of assembly” on campus. The policy was originally […]» Read More
September 4, 2009
Classes are barely in session, and already FIRE and its allies have hit the ground running. As Lukenoted earlier, Will was at Cornell University this week discussing the “Trojan horses” of campus speech codes, including the ones which have resulted in Cornell’s current “red light” rating on FIRE’s Spotlight. Read the Cornell Daily Sun’s coverage for more on the start of what promises to be a very busy year for FIRE’s speakers bureau. Brandeis University undergraduate Daniel Ortner and Cornell undergraduate John Cetta, meanwhile, are busy putting their 2009 FIRE internship experiences to use, evidenced by Daniel’s most recent column for The Brandeis Hoot and John’s piece for The D.C. […]» Read More
March 30, 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 Cornell University, which FIRE has given a red-light rating for maintaining policies that clearly and substantially restrict free expression on campus. Since Cornell is a private university, not directly bound by the First Amendment, we must first examine whether students enrolling at Cornell would have a reasonable expectation of free speech rights. Cornell’s Campus Code of Conduct provides that Because it is a special kind of […]» Read More
October 24, 2008
Ivy League folklore has it that Cornell’s alma mater actually begins like this: Far above Cayuga’s watersThere’s an awful smell;Some say it’s Cayuga’s waters,Some say it’s Cornell. Folklore has a way of encoding a certain amount of truth, and I finally have figured out what this verse refers to: the stench of disdain for expressive rights on the Cornell campus. Already there have been three troubling developments this year. First, Cornell has been criticized for monitoring and recording all Internet usage by students, which surely makes students think twice about what they research on the Internet. This policy was lampooned […]» Read More
Cornell University Engineering Staff Remove Students’ Pro-Life Display until Police Force Return of Display
October 22, 2008
Breaking news out of Cornell this morning: two administrators from Cornell’s College of Engineering were forced by the Cornell Police to relinquish a student group’s pro-life display, which they had removed from the ground and confiscated entirely because of the content of the display. According to the Cornell Coalition for Life (CCFL) and its spokeswoman, Tristen Cramer, CCFL set up six signs supporting its pro-life “Elena Campaign” in Cornell’s Engineering Quad. The signs were put up around 8:00 a.m. this morning. By 9:00 a.m., Administrative Assistant Dawn Warren had confiscated them and taken them to the Facilities Office of the […]» Read More
September 29, 2008
The ongoing hostility to dissenting views at Cornell never fails to surprise. Most often manifested as hostility towards conservative newspapers on campus, censorship once again reared its ugly head yesterday as Cornell’s Student Assembly passed a resolution, which, according to the Cornell Sun campus newspaper, criticized The Cornell Review (a conservative student newspaper) for causing “alienation and intimidation.” What’s more, the resolution —known as “Resolution 6″ —officially “encouraged the Office of the Dean of Students to work with the S.A. to revise the Campus Code of Conduct to prevent further ‘hateful terminology.’” The problem appears to have stemmed from the […]» Read More
March 23, 2007
Good news from Ithaca, New York—home of gorges, Professor Vladimir Nabokov, and, most famously, Cornell University. Diligent Torch readers may remember that this past December, Cornell students and faculty were busy voicing their unhappiness with an official proposal for a dramatic overhaul of the university’s judicial code of conduct. Upon its release last April, the proposal—known as the Krause Report after its author, former Cornell Judicial Administrator Barbara Krause—generated widespread criticism from many corners of the Cornell community because it contained sweeping reductions of the due process and freedom of speech protections presently afforded to Cornell students and faculty. […]» Read More
December 15, 2006
At Cornell University, students and faculty members alike are voicing displeasure with a proposal for a new Campus Code of Conduct. Last November, then-Interim President Hunter R. Rawlings III commissioned Barbara Krause, a senior advisor, to undertake a comprehensive review of the existing Code of Conduct and propose changes in an effort to recalibrate what some consider out-of-date policy. Her proposals, aggregated in a document known as the Krause Report, were released this past April, and are now online and available for public review. While Cornell has yet to take an official position on the recommendations contained […]» Read More
January 23, 2006
An article in The Chronicle of Higher Education today announces that David J. Skorton will become the new president of Cornell University. Skorton, currently the president of the University of Iowa, has made a name for himself as a defender of free speech and academic freedom. The Chronicle article says: At Iowa, Dr. Skorton has actively promoted the arts and humanities as well as scientific research, and he has defended a controversial speaker’s right to appear at his university. A few months after the Animal Liberation Front claimed responsibility for vandalizing research laboratories and offices at the University of Iowa […]» Read More
October 28, 2005
One of my first memories from college is hearing the dean of students at my alma mater refer to Cornell University as “that other school ending in -nell.” Given that, I probably shouldn’t be blogging on Cornell again so soon, but given the harshness of my last post, it seems the only fair thing to do. According to another piece in the Cornell Daily Sun, there was another “forum” on free speech there on October 26. This one seems to have been more closely related to the Cornell American controversy I mentioned before, and two panelists’ comments on that […]» Read More
October 26, 2005
Some FIRE fans are no doubt aware that our fearless leader, David French, used to be a lecturer at Cornell Law School. If this recent article in the Cornell Daily Sun is accurate, perhaps we should send David back to the lovely town of Ithaca, as the folks there seem utterly confused about what freedom means. Here is how the article begins: Several hundred Cornellians joined eight panelists last night in an event specifically tailored to foster discussion on topics such as freedom of the press and freedom of speech. The event, titled “Censor This: A panel discussion on when, if ever, […]» Read More