Location: Washington, District Of Columbia
Federal Circuit: 1st Circuit
Georgetown University has been given the speech code rating Red. A red light university has at least one policy that both clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech. Read more here.
May 4, 2010
Despite its Speech & Expression Policy stating that "’time, place and manner’ are the only norms allowable in governing the expression of ideas and sharing of information that is the very life of the university," Georgetown University has consistently refused to recognize the pro-choice student group H*yas for Choice, saying that doing so would conflict with its Catholic and Jesuit mission. Georgetown’s Access to Benefits Policy denies groups like H*yas for Choice equal treatment among student groups, contradicting its moral and contractual promises of free speech. Further, H*yas for Choice was denied recognition despite the existence of recognized groups of […]» Read More
April 1, 2000
The editor-in-chief of the Georgetown University’s student newspaper, The Hoya, has resorted to student self-censorship. David Jung Wong, a sophomore from Hollywood, Florida, fired Robert Swope, a conservative columnist, for having angered campus feminists with his weekly op-eds. Wong was unhappy with Swope’s unrepentant politically incorrect views and took it upon himself to rid the paper of its token conservative columnist. Wong’s decision has been the subject of discussion in a number of national publications, almost exclusively by intellectually diverse and liberty-loving female authors. Cultural critic Camille Paglia, libertarian intellectual Wendy McElroy, Jewish World Review columnist Michelle Malkin, National Review’s […]» Read More
Red Light Policies
The individual or group hosting such an event must reserve the place where it will occur, in accordance with registration requirements. However, the area adjacent to the ICC (“Red Square”) and Leavey Lobby (in inclement weather) shall be available, without prior arrangement, for individuals and groups during daylight hours for the purpose of exchanging ideas.
An individual hosting an event is responsible for all costs (including security if such is deemed necessary by the University administration) associated with the event ….
As publisher/manager, the University retains the right to:
Exclude advertisements for abortion services, (contraception, sperm donors) of any kind from any and all student media.
Deny use of funds from any University budget for any media containing such advertisement.
Take action through the procedures outlined below against any member of any editorial board approving such advertising.
Exclude advertisements paid through an exchange of goods and/or service other than cash unless involved in a promotion approved by the media’s editorial board and cleared by the Center for Student Programs.
Exclude advertisements of research papers or research assistance services of any kind.
Exclude any advertising that promotes violation of the intention and spirit of the DC Code and/or Georgetown University regulations.
The University also reserves the right to specify further types of advertisements that it considers to be grossly unjust or inconsistent with the conscience of Georgetown as a Catholic, Jesuit educational institution and to prohibit such advertisements from student media. Any such future prohibitions must be made with the advice and consultation of the Media Board, must be specified in writing to all student media and must be added to the exclusionary rights of this policy on student media before denial of any allotted funds.
[E]xpression that is indecent or is grossly obscene or grossly offensive on matters such as race, ethnicity, religion, gender, or sexual orientation is inappropriate in a university community and the University will act as it deems appropriate to educate students violating this principle.
Harassment, other than sexual harassment, is verbal or physical conduct that denigrates or shows hostility or aversion to an individual because of gender, race, color, religion, age, pregnancy, national origin, disability, veteran’s status, sexual orientation, marital status, family responsibilities, political affiliation, personal appearance, source of income or any basis prohibited by law, when such conduct has the purpose or effect of: unreasonably interfering with an individual’s academic or work performance; creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive educational or work environment; or otherwise adversely affecting an individual’s academic or employment opportunities. Harassment may include, but is not limited to: verbal abuse or ridicule, including slurs, epithets, and stereotyping; offensive jokes and comments; threatening, intimidating, or hostile acts, and displaying or distributing offensive materials, writings, graffiti, or pictures.
Georgetown promotes free speech. Bias-related conduct includes hostile language, behavior or destruction. Incidents of bias should be reported to promote a respectful community.
For the purposes of this policy, sexual harassment is defined as any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favors or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when: … Such conduct has the purpose or effect of interfering with an individual’s work or educational performance, or of creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment for work or learning.
A university is many things but central to its being is discourse, discussion, debate: the untrammeled expression of ideas and information.
“Free speech” is central to the life of the university. … The long and short of the matter is that “time, place and manner” are the only norms allowable in governing the expression of ideas and sharing of information that is the very life of the university.
[A]ll members of the Georgetown University academic community, which comprises students, faculty and administrators, enjoy the right to freedom of speech and expression. This freedom includes the right to express points of view on the widest range of public and private concerns and to engage in the robust expression of ideas.
January 2, 2013
One New Year’s resolution we’d like to see in 2013 is a renewed effort to uphold the First Amendment on college campuses. According to a new report by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE, 62 percent of the nation’s colleges and universities “maintain severely restrictive speech codes … that clearly and substantially prohibit protected speech.” FIRE noted that the overwhelming majority of speech is protected. But narrow exceptions (such as “fighting words,” obscenity and defamation) “are often misused and abused by universities to punish constitutionally protected speech.” Restrictions intended to protect students from harassment or bullying have been […]» Read More
February 28, 2014
As Georgetown University students await clarification of the school’s policies governing campus expression, candidates for president and vice president of the Georgetown University Student Association (GUSA) are putting freedom of speech and association at the forefront of their campaigns, demonstrating that these rights are a priority for the student body. While the four two-person teams propose different strategies for protecting speech on campus, all of them have made efforts to address this critically important issue.» Read More
February 14, 2014
On January 20, members of the Georgetown University student group H*yas for Choice were forced to move from the outdoor campus location where they were tabling while a pro-life event took place inside Healy Hall. But despite clear statements from Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson and Georgetown University Student Association President Nate Tisa that the university’s policies did not prohibit the group from tabling where they were, students are still awaiting clarification of the school’s policies governing campus expression. Last week, the university’s Free Speech and Expression Committee met to discuss the issue. Olson apologized to H*yas for […]» Read More
January 30, 2014
Georgetown University’s strained relationship with free speech has long been home to one of American academia’s most absurd products of censorship, the pro-choice student group H*yas for Choice. Now Georgetown is back in the news again with the latest chapter in the Chronicles of Making Things Ridiculous Through Censorship. Back in 2010, FIRE wrote Georgetown on three separate occasions about its refusal to accord H*yas for Choice equal treatment with other student groups. While Georgetown cited its Catholic and Jesuit mission as a reason to refuse to recognize H*yas for Choice, FIRE pointed out (and has repeatedly pointed out since […]» Read More
January 23, 2014
Last Friday, the editorial board of Georgetown University’s student newspaper, The Hoya, sounded the alarm over Georgetown’s restrictive speech codes. According to The Hoya, “[t]he Georgetown University Speech and Expression policy contains outdated and harmful sections regarding acceptable expression that deserve public notice, if not immediate revision.” The Hoya’s editorial hit all the right notes. It not only criticized the university’s overly broad and vague prohibition (PDF) on “expression that is indecent or is grossly obscene or grossly offensive on matters such as race, ethnicity, religion, gender, or sexual orientation” but also pointed out that the prohibition conflicts directly with a robust commitment to free […]» Read More
July 15, 2013
Madeline Gootman is a FIRE summer intern. When private universities send out their shiny pamphlets to high school seniors, they highlight their commitment to all things politically correct and otherwise acceptable in academia. However, these commitments to civility, respect, and social comfort are often at odds with the broad promises of free speech that universities make to their incoming students. Unfortunately for students, too many private universities want to have it both ways, promising students the right to free speech and then violating that right when someone’s speech proves too unpopular or controversial. Vanderbilt University’s packet for recently admitted students […]» Read More
January 15, 2013
Georgetown University’s student newspaper, The Hoya, ran a staff editorial today criticizing the university’s use of “free speech zones.” According to the paper, Georgetown held a student activities fair over the weekend at which officially recognized student groups were given space to set up tables and recruit new members. Unrecognized groups, on the other hand, were relegated to the free speech zones at Red Square or the Leavey Center. The Hoya‘s editorial is notable for several reasons. First and foremost, it is extremely heartening to see the staff of a student newspaper speak out collectively in support of greater free […]» Read More
May 17, 2012
FIRE Vice President of Programs Adam Kissel comments on a commencement controversy at Georgetown University in The Huffington Post today, arguing that the university should honor its commitment to free speech. Adam contrasts Georgetown’s laudable decision to stick by its promises of free expression in allowing Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius to speak at commencement with the university’s past failure to provide equal treatment to pro-choice student group H*yas for Choice. As Adam notes, Georgetown’s guarantee of freedom of expression cannot be selectively applied.» Read More
May 4, 2010
Is Georgetown University going to live up to its free speech promises or not? A group of pro-choice students at Georgetown, H*yas for Choice, wants equal treatment with other groups on campus, but has been told that it does not deserve equal treatment because its mission conflicts with Georgetown’s Catholic and Jesuit identity. That would be perfectly fine if Georgetown had not actually promised its students and faculty that free expression is fundamental to Georgetown’s own vision of its Catholic and Jesuit identity. And, it would be more understandable if Georgetown had not already provided official recognition and substantial benefits […]» Read More
April 26, 2010
In today’s edition of The Eagle, American University’s student paper, Adam Kissel offers his opinion on how individual rights transcend partisan divides. As anyone who has followed FIRE’s work knows, FIRE is proudly nonpartisan. Our staff hails from across the political and religious spectrum, and our cases demonstrate that campus censorship can strike persons of every ideological persuasion. Adam cites two current controversies: While the Supreme Court considers whether belief-based student organizations deserve equal rights on campus, two more universities have been facing this very issue. Georgetown University is facing it over a pro-choice group, the University of Arizona over […]» Read More
January 22, 2010
Yesterday at Georgetown University, approximately fifteen anti-war protesters attempted to disrupt a speech and accompanying question-and-answer session with David Petraeus, current Commander of the U.S. Central Command. The Hoya reports: While his speech was originally slated to be an update address sponsored by the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, after making brief remarks, Petraeus turned the event into a forum for open and candid conversation. He was cut off several times throughout the event, however, due to interruptions by protesters, who rose from their seats to read aloud names and ages of victims of the wars in Iraq and […]» Read More
December 17, 2009
If you feel like banging your head against a wall but lack the motivating force to do so, try reading this blog entry posted yesterday at Vox Populi, the staff blog of Georgetown University news magazine The Georgetown Voice. The article covers a forum prompted by the controversy over a recent issue of the satire magazine The Georgetown Heckler, which offended members of the Georgetown community over its perceived insensitivity. The issue, among other things, takes aim at a satirical April Fools’ Day issue of the student newspaper The Georgetown Hoya—which likewise was met with charges of racism from the […]» Read More
January 26, 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). In the first two installments of the countdown, we described the restrictive policies at the University of California—Los Angeles (UCLA) and the University of Virginia, both of which receive a poor, “red light” rating from FIRE for restricting student speech. The next institution on the list is Georgetown University, another “red light” institution. Before we delve into Georgetown’s speech codes, it is important to explain why FIRE believes that Georgetown—a private, […]» Read More