Marshall University

Location: Huntington, West Virginia
Type: Public
Federal Circuit: 4th Circuit

Speech Code Rating

Marshall 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.

  • Marshall University: Racially Restricted Orientation Classes

    November 4, 2006

    When FIRE learned that Marshall University had limited enrollment in several “University Studies 101″ courses to “African American Students Only,” it letter to University President Stephen J. Kopp explaining that racially segregated courses are both unlawful and misguided. In Kopp’s response, he claimed that the courses were open to both white and African American students. FIRE noted that the course description effectively enforced segregation, regardless of the official status of the courses. In response to FIRE’s objections, Marshall has changed the course description for UNI 101, so that several sections in fall of 2007 will focused on “African American Student […]

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Red Light Policies

Yellow Light Policies
  • Marshall University Creed 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Policies Restricting Freedom of Conscience

    We are:

    A Civil Community treating all individuals and groups with consideration, decency, and respect, and expressing disagreements in rational ways;
    A Responsible Community accepting obligations and following behavioral guidelines designed to support the common good; … A Pluralistic Community celebrating and learning from our diversity … A Socially Conscious Community acting as citizens of the world and seeking to contribute to the betterment of people and their environments; A Judicious Community remaining alert to the threats posed by hatred, intolerance and other injustices and ever-prepared to correct them.

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  • The Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities: Standard 2 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Policies on Tolerance, Respect, and Civility

    Intimidation: Committing, conspiring to commit, or causing to be committed any act which causes or is likely to cause physical or mental harm or which tends to injure, actually injures, stigmatizes, frightens or demeans any person. Retaliation or threatened retaliation against any person who files a complaint or testifies in a campus judicial case is considered intimidation.

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  • The Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities: Standard 3 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Policies on Tolerance, Respect, and Civility

    Violations of this standard include but are not limited to: … Lewd, indecent, or obscene conduct or expression.

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  • Student Handbook: Public Communications- Demonstrations & Mass Gatherings 11-12

    Speech Code Category: Protest and Demonstration Policies, Statement

    In all instances, those holding rallies and demonstrations are responsible for making the necessary provisions to maintain the peaceful demeanor of the rally.

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  • Residence Hall Guide: Communication 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies

    Any form of bigotry, harassment, intimidation or threat that occurs as a result of use of any Internet service is prohibited. This includes, but is not limited to, comments, user profiles and user messages made on Instant Messenger, websites, Facebook, blogs.

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  • Acceptable Use Policy 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies

    [T]his section outlines some of the more common forms of violations that occur. … Sending abusive, harassing, or obscene messages. Viewing or listening to objectionable, obscene, pornographic, or harassing material in public areas.

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Green Light Policies
  • Marshall looks at free speech policies

    February 1, 2011

    CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Marshall University plans to take a “hard look” at its speech policies after a Philadelphia-based foundation criticized the school for having outdated, restrictive rules. Last month, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE, gave Marshall its “Speech Code of the Month” designation for what foundation official Samantha Harris says are restrictive speech codes that prohibit a “staggering amount of constitutionally protected speech.” The organization’s mission is to defend free speech rights, legal equality, religious freedom and due process rights on American college campuses, according to its website. Last week, FIRE President Greg Lukianoff named Marshall […]

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  • Marshall rated as one of worst schools for free speech

    January 28, 2011

    HUNTINGTON — Marshall University has distinguished itself in athletics, academics and even the entertainment industry in the past decade. This week the school earned a new distinction that ranked it with the likes of Yale, Syracuse and Johns Hopkins University — as one of the twelve worst schools for free speech in the country. The list was compiled by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE, and schools on the list were shown to have a “particular hostility to freedom of speech” Greg Lukianoff, FIRE president said. “Some schools have earned this distinction by refusing to undo punishments […]

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  • Nothing Better to Do? Juicy Campus Mostly Trash Speaking Dud

    November 29, 2008

    Don’t have a life? Spend your time surfing Juicy Campus, which recently added Marshall University to its 500 institutions. A survey reveals word “tags” and a few comments (and retorts) about a fraternity, sorority, or individual. Unlike a “forum” the site seeks “gossip” and it’s unfiltered. So, this site allows a point / counterpoint structure with some posts written as if they came from Judd Apatow’s “Superbad” or “Pineapple Express.” Call it an inferior attempt at re-inventing Facebook before it hit mainstream. An article in the Charleston Gazette partly misrepresents concern hype.   Surveying there is just not enough topics […]

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  • FIRE lauds Marshall’s dropping of race-based course restrictions

    August 17, 2006

    by Jim Brown Agape Press A campus watchdog has convinced Marshall University in West Virginia to stop offering racially segregated classes. The school had been limiting several freshman orientation classes to “African American students only.” The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) wrote a letter to Marshall’s President Stephen Kopp, protesting the racially segregated classes, after which the university changed the course descriptions, dropping the race-based restrictions. This fall, several sections of the school’s University Studies 101 course will focus on “African American student issues,” but will now be open to all students, regardless of race or ancestry, and […]

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  • Marshall drops ‘African-American students only’ from course list

    August 9, 2006

    by Shaya Tayefe Mohajer Wilkes Barre Times-Leader   Marshall University has dropped the words “African-American students only” from an orientation class listing on its fall schedule, following a warning from an educational foundation that it could be violating state and federal law. In the Fall 2005 course schedule, the racially restrictive phrase appeared on the comment line for three UNI 101 orientation classes. This year, the phrase has been removed, though the one-credit elective course continues to be offered. “In the case of Marshall, which is a public college, they did the right thing by taking action and dropping this […]

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  • FIRE’s Will Creeley Speaking at Marshall University This Evening

    February 17, 2014

    Students and FIRE supporters in the Huntington, West Virginia, area are invited to hear FIRE Director of Legal and Public Advocacy Will Creeley speak at Marshall University tonight at 7 p.m. in Corbly Hall, 117. Marshall University currently has a “red light” rating in FIRE’s Spotlight database, but the president of Young Americans for Liberty’s Marshall chapter, Caitlin Grimes, is working to change that. Caitlin, who was featured last month in FIRE’s Student Spotlight, said, “I made it my mission to change this before I graduate so as to ensure that Marshall will grow to become an even greater university.” […]

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  • Students Create Free Speech Walls to Celebrate First Amendment

    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 […]

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  • This Week in the News: Greg’s Dirty Dozen Causes Big Vibrations, and Syracuse Drops Investigation of Alleged Blogger

    February 4, 2011

    This has been quite the week for FIRE. No less than 21 articles mentioned our involvement in defending free speech on campus! Greg’s Huffington Post article, “The 12 Worst Colleges for Free Speech,” was noted by numerous news sources across the country. Marshall University garnered the most numerous citations by far. Davin White, writing for the Charleston Gazette (Charleston, W.Va.), quotes Robert’s and Sam’s opinions on the dangers of Marshall’s speech codes, while mentioning the university’s plans to discuss changing the speech codes. Tony Rutherford of quotes Greg’s explanation of how schools made the “dirty dozen” list, cites Sam’s […]

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  • Numerous Unconstitutional Speech Codes Place Marshall University on Our List of ’12 Worst Colleges for Free Speech’

    February 3, 2011

    Marshall University stands out from the other institutions on Greg’s list of the “12 Worst Colleges for Free Speech” in The Huffington Post in that its policies alone, rather than specific cases of First Amendment violations, put it on the list. This distinction has not gone unnoticed, with the writers of an editorial in The Parthenon, Marshall’s student newspaper, as well as the Charleston Daily Mail, wondering why Marshall was placed on the same list as blatant free speech abusers like Syracuse University (which wisely dropped its investigation of alleged SUCOLitis blogger Len Audaer this week) and Michigan State University. As we […]

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  • FIRE in ‘The Huffington Post’ on America’s 12 Worst Schools for Free Speech

    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 […]

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  • Speech Code of the Month: Marshall University

    January 3, 2011

    FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for January 2011: Marshall University. This public university in West Virginia has so many restrictive speech codes that it is difficult to choose just one for our Speech Code of the Month. But for now, we concern ourselves with Standard 3 of Marshall’s Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities. Standard 3 asserts, generally, that “Marshall University students and student groups respect and honor the human rights and dignity of other persons, groups and organizations.” Following this is a list of specific violations of Standard 3, which include: “Committing, conspiring to commit, or […]

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  • Associated Press Covers Marshall Victory

    August 11, 2006

    The Associated Press reported on FIRE’s victory at Marshall University, where the school offered three orientation courses for “African-American students only.” Marshall dropped the racially exclusive language after FIRE sent the university a letter warning that such classes violated state and federal law, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The article reports that Marshall defended the policy as an effort by black faculty members to help African-American students “form a bond” in a “predominantly white community.” Regardless of intention, separate but equal was done away with in 1954 when the Supreme Court decided Brown vs. Board of Education.

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  • Marshall-Race Orientation

    August 10, 2006

    Marshall University has dropped the words African-American students only from a listing on its fall schedule, following an educational foundation’s warning that it could be violating state and federal law. In the Fall 2005 course schedule, the racially restrictive phrase appeared on the comment line for three orientation classes. This year, the phrase has been removed, though the one-credit elective course continues to be offered. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education sent Marshall a letter in November 2005 asking them to drop the language. The Philadelphia-based nonpartisan, nonprofit group cited court decisions dating back to Brown versus Board of […]

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  • Marshall University Dissolves Racially Restricted Orientation Classes

    August 9, 2006

    HUNTINGTON, W.Va., August 9, 2006—Marshall University has taken the advice of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and removed racial restrictions from an orientation course for first-year students. Last year’s listing for University Studies 101 (UNI 101) stated that certain sections were limited to “African American Students Only.” Thanks to FIRE’s intervention, several sections of UNI 101 this coming fall will focus on “African American Student Issues,” but will not exclude any student based upon race or ancestry. “FIRE is pleased that Marshall has changed the enrollment requirements for UNI 101,” stated FIRE President Greg Lukianoff. “Students’ rights […]

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  • FIRE Letter to Marshall University President Stephen J. Kopp, November 4, 2005

    November 4, 2005

    November 4, 2005 President Stephen J. Kopp Office of the President Marshall University 1 John Marshall Drive Huntington, West Virginia 25755 Sent by U.S. Mail and Facsimile (304-696-6453) Dear President Kopp: As you can see from the list of our Directors and Board of Advisors, 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, academic freedom, due process, and freedom of speech on America’s college campuses.  Our website,, will give you a greater sense of our identity and activities. […]

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