Iowa State University

Location: Ames, Iowa
Type: Public
Federal Circuit: 8th Circuit

Speech Code Rating

Iowa State 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.

This school does not have any cases at this time.

Red Light Policies

  • Policy Library: Discrimination and Harassment 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    Iowa State University also prohibits harassment, which can be a form of discrimination if it is unwelcome and is sufficiently severe or pervasive and objectively offensive so as to substantially interfere with a person’s work or education. Harassment may include, but is not limited to, threats, physical contact or violence, pranks, jokes, bullying, epithets, derogatory comments, vandalism, or verbal, graphic, or written conduct directed at an individual or individuals because of their race, ethnicity, sex, pregnancy, color, religion, national origin, physical or mental disability, age, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, genetic information, or U.S. veteran status. Even if actions are not directed at specific persons, a hostile environment may be created when the conduct is sufficiently severe or pervasive and objectively offensive so as to substantially interfere with or limit the ability of an individual to work, study, or otherwise to participate in activities of the university.

    While grounded in state and federal non-discrimination laws, this policy may cover those activities which, although not severe, persistent, or pervasive enough to meet the legal definition of harassment, are unacceptable and not tolerated in an educational or work environment.

    [Sexual harassment] can range from unwelcome sexual flirtations and inappropriate put-downs of individual persons or classes of people to serious physical abuses such as sexual assault. Examples could include, but are not limited to, unwelcome sexual advances; repeated and unwelcome sexually-oriented bullying, teasing, joking, or flirting; verbal abuse of a sexual nature; commentary about an individual’s body, sexual prowess, or sexual deficiencies; derogatory or demeaning comments about women or men in general, whether sexual or not; leering, touching, pinching, or brushing against another’s body; or displaying objects or pictures, including electronic images, which are sexual in nature and which create a hostile or offensive work, education, or living environment.

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  • Policy Library: Student Disciplinary Regulations- Harassment and Discriminatory Harassment 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    Engaging in First Amendment protected speech activities may not rise to the level of harassment, depending on the circumstances.

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Yellow Light Policies
  • Policy Library: Facilities and Grounds Use, Activities 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Protest and Demonstration Policies

    The Edward S. Allen Area of Free Debate, located west and south of the Hub, and the area south of the Campanile have been designated as public forums for non-commercial expression. If these areas have not been reserved for use for university purposes or by student, faculty or staff organizations, any member of the public or of the university community may use these areas for expressive activities on a first come, first served basis.

    Student organizations, university departments, and others wishing to use outdoor areas other than a designated public forum for a public event must notify the Memorial Union Event Management office. If possible, such notice should be submitted at least twenty-four hours in advance of the event, but in any case must be submitted at least three hours prior to the event. No approval is necessary if the event meets the following criteria: For events held on weekdays between the hours of 8:00a.m. and 4:00 p.m., the event will be held at least one hundred feet away from buildings that normally hold classes ….

    A public event not at a designated public forum, and which does not meet the above criteria, requires prior approval by the filing of an Online Event Authorization Request Form –

    • With the Student Activities Center when recognized student organizations make the request, and
    • With Facilities Planning and Management when university departments and non-university entities make the request.

    It is preferred that the online request be made at least ten business days and not less than four business days in advance of the proposed event.

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  • Policy Library: Sexual Misconduct, Sexual Assault, and Sexual Harassment Involving Students 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    Sexual harassment can include unwelcome behavior (verbal, written, physical) that is directed at someone because of that person’s sex or gender, and that meets either of the following criteria: …

    • The behavior creates a hostile, intimidating or demeaning environment that is sufficiently severe, pervasive and objectively offensive to substantially interfere with or deny participation in a student’s educational activities and benefits or employment opportunities.
      • Examples can include persistent efforts to develop a sexual relationship; bullying/cyber-bullying of a sexual nature or for a sexual purpose; unwelcome commentary about an individual’s body or sexual activities; unwanted sexual attention; repeated and unwelcome sexually-oriented teasing, joking or flirting; verbal abuse of a sexual nature. Comments or communications could be verbal, written or electronic.

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  • Policy Library: Acceptable Use of Information Technology Resources 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies

    Some key prohibitions include:

    * Sending unsolicited e-mail messages, including the sending of “junk mail” or other advertising material to individuals who did not specifically request such material, except as approved under the Mass E-Mail Policy and Effective Electronic Communication.
    * Engaging in harassment via e-mail, telephone, or paging, whether through language, frequency, or size of messages.

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  • Policy Library: Inclusive Language 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Other Speech Codes

    All university publications and communication, whether oral or written, shall use inclusive language and illustrations. Inclusive language refers to language that makes every attempt to include comprehensively all groups in the community. Whenever possible, selection of academic materials will also reflect efforts to uphold this university policy.

    Compliance with this policy shall be the responsibility of all faculty and staff.

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Green Light Policies
  • Policy Library: Student Disciplinary Regulations- Student Rights and Responsibilities 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression

    Students have certain rights as members of the university community in addition to those constitutional and statutory rights and privileges inherent from the State of Iowa and the United States of America, and nothing in this document shall be construed so as to limit or abridge students’ constitutional rights.

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  • Policy Library: Student Disciplinary Regulations- Statement of Philosophy 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression

    Iowa State University is an institution that encourages the intellectual and personal growth of its students as scholars and citizens. As an educational institution, the university recognizes that the transmission of knowledge, the pursuit of truth, and the development of individuals require the free exchange of ideas, self-expression, and the challenging of beliefs and customs.

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  • Report: UI, ISU and UNI on “red light” speech code list

    December 18, 2012

    A new report lists the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa among schools that earn the lowest rating regarding free speech on campus. The UI, ISU and UNI were among the schools on the “red light” list from the 2013 report on campus speech codes by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.  Grinnell College was on the “yellow light” list in the report. More than three-fifths — 62.1 percent — of the 409 schools surveyed have speech codes that “clearly fail to meet First Amendment standards,” according to the foundation. Those schools were […]

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  • Free-speech organization says ISU’s policies are too restrictive

    January 12, 2012

    Iowa’s public universities have work to do to end suppressive speech policies according to a new report from an advocacy group devoted to free speech in academia. Iowa State University, the University of Iowa and the University of Northern Iowa all received “red light” ratings for their speech codes in the report from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) released this month. A red light rating, given to universities with one or more severely restrictive speech codes, was given to 65 percent of 392 schools surveyed in the yearly report. While the report shows a slight decline in […]

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  • UI free speech policy disappoints

    January 12, 2005

    Certainly our freedom of speech is one of the most cherished and fundamental rights in this country. Unfortunately, the United States falls far short of the ideal put forth in the old saying, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Far too many people are now more than willing to suppress the speech of others simply because they find it offensive. Perhaps the most frightening aspect of this move towards oppression is that our nation’s universities are leading the way. At the University of Oklahoma, a disgraceful group of […]

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  • The Chilling Effect at Iowa State

    January 26, 2012

    The Iowa State Daily has devoted much coverage this week to the issue of free speech on campus, prompted in large part by the publication of FIRE’s latest national report on campus speech codes across the country, in which Iowa State University receives a “red light” rating for its speech codes. These ratings, of course, are based on the extent to which university policies, as written, impermissibly restrict free speech.  This approach occasionally elicits protestations from within university communities that our rating system may unfairly paint universities as being “bad” on free speech, when in fact (they say), the spirit […]

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  • Student Paper Points Out Flaws in Iowa State’s ‘Red Light’ Harassment Policies

    January 25, 2012

    Writing for the Iowa State Daily, Kaleb Warnock quotes FIRE Director of Speech Code Research Samantha Harris on Iowa State University’s (ISU’s) unconstitutional speech codes. Specifically, Warnock’s article draws attention to ISU’s two “red light” harassment policies, each of which prohibits a substantial amount of protected student expression.  These policies constitute a severe misapplication of peer harassment law at ISU. Indeed, it is difficult to conceive of two harassment policies at the same school that could more badly misinform students of their expressive rights.  ISU’s policy on “Discrimination and Harassment” (PDF) explicitly states, in pertinent part:  While grounded in state […]

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  • ‘Ames Tribune’ on Iowa State’s Speech Codes

    January 13, 2012

    Following FIRE’s release of our 2012 speech code report earlier this week, an article yesterday in the Ames Tribune drew attention to the unfortunate state of free speech at Iowa’s public universities, particularly at Iowa State University.  As a public university, Iowa State is obligated to protect its students’ First Amendment rights, but its policies explicitly reserve the right to punish protected speech. Its policy on discrimination and harassment (.pdf), for example, provides that “this policy may cover those activities which, although not severe, persistent, or pervasive enough to meet the legal definition of harassment, are inappropriate and unjustified in […]

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  • College Students Defy Free Speech Restrictions to Celebrate Death of Bin Laden

    May 2, 2011

    The announcement late last evening that U.S. forces had killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan inspired celebrations outside the White House, in New York City, and on a number of college campuses. Spontaneous gatherings in response to major events—such as beginning or ending a war, an assassination, a heinous campus crime—are natural and to be expected. Unfortunately, many colleges maintain “free speech zones” and other restrictions on demonstrations that ban students from spontaneous protests. Last night, students demonstrated anyway. Considering the importance of the event, it’s not surprising that police on some campuses put aside the rules in order to […]

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  • Students Celebrate First Amendment Day at Iowa State University

    April 9, 2010

    Students at Iowa State University celebrated the university’s eighth annual First Amendment Day yesterday, holding a day-long series of public events and panel discussions on the issues currently facing free speech. First Amendment Day this year featured a keynote address on “Watchdog Journalism in the 21st Century,” delivered by Pulitzer Prize-winning Chicago Tribune reporter Joe Mahr. The event also had an outdoor “Feast on the First Amendment,” featuring live music and soapbox debates, some of which you can view via the event’s Twitter page. Congratulations to Iowa State for another successful First Amendment Day. Hopefully Iowa State’s more deeply informed minds […]

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