Northern Illinois University

Location: Dekalb, Illinois
Website: http://www.niu.edu
Type: Public
Federal Circuit: 7th Circuit

Speech Code Rating

Northern Illinois 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.

  • Northern Illinois University: Unequal Treatment of Political and Religious Student Organizations

    November 18, 2010

    The Student Association Senate at Northern Illinois University twice denied recognition to the NIU chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) because of the group’s viewpoint, its alleged “political” activities, and failing to show sufficient “respect” for the Senate. Following the first denial of recognition, the Senate made matters much worse by defining “political” and “religious” organizations so as to unconstitutionally jeopardize the funding of many more student organizations. The Student Association also maintains unconstitutional double standards regarding recognition and funding of student organizations, making “political” and “religious” student organizations at NIU second-class groups while giving “social justice” and “diversity” groups full […]

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  • Mohammed Cartoon Controversy: FIRE Response to Intimidation and Newspaper Disputes

    February 22, 2006

    As a result of worldwide controversy regarding caricatures of the prophet Mohammed, first published in a Danish newspaper, free speech was being openly disregarded on American college campuses. In the weeks following the printing of the cartoon, students, professors, and student publications not only reprinted the controversial cartoons but even created their own satirical cartoons depicting Mohammed. Chilling of speech in relation to the cartoon was found at Century College, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and New York University, amongst others.

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Red Light Policies

  • Non-Discrimination/Harassment Policy 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    Policy Violation on the basis of Race – occurs when differences in employment/academic decisions are based upon the employee’s/student’s race. Conduct prohibited by this policy includes, but is not limited to, the use of racial slurs, graffiti, or ethnic jokes that create a hostile or abusive working environment.

    Typically, a hostile environment is created only when the discrimination or harassment is severe and alters the conditions of the victim’s employment/academic environment. The occasional improper comment and/or joke, generally, will not create such a hostile
    environment and/or be indicative of racial discrimination unless such conduct is severe, pervasive, and/or occurs on a frequent basis.

    Examples of age related discrimination includes, but is not limited to, characterizations, stereotypes, jokes, or insults regarding the employee’s/student’s age, poor health, and/or medical conditions, forced retirement, and the use of any derogatory terms regarding age.

    Policy Violation on the basis of Sexual Orientation – occurs when employment/academic decisions are based upon or biased because the employee’s/student’s sexual orientation is or is perceived to be heterosexual, lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Examples of conduct prohibited by this policy includes, but is not limited to, offensive language, mockery, verbal threats, damage to personal property, and physical violence or harassment.

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  • Non-Discrimination/Harassment Policy 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    Policy Violation on the basis of Sexual Harassment – occurs when sexual behavior or requests for sexual favors: … Have the express purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual’s work/academic performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive working academic environment.

    In order for the conduct to be considered sexual harassment, the behavior must be:

    * Unwanted or unwelcome;
    * Sexual in nature or related to the sex or gender of the employee/student;
    * Sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the recipient’s employment or education.

    Examples of sexual harassment in employment or education include, but are not limited to, uninvited sexual comments or innuendo, oral, written, or electronic communications that are sexually explicit in nature or sexually explicit questions, jokes, or anecdotes about gender-specific traits.

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Yellow Light Policies
  • Acceptable Use Policy 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies

    Unacceptable uses include, but are not limited to, the following: … Sending or storing for retrieval patently harassing, intimidating, or abusive material. … Using the resources for political activities, including organizing or participating in any political meeting, rally, demonstration, soliciting contributions or votes, distributing material, surveying or polling for information connected to a political campaign, completing political surveys or polling information, and any other activities prohibited under the ethics act and/or other state/federal laws.

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  • Solicitation/Free Speech Area Policy 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Protest and Demonstration Policies

    Northern Illinois University policy prohibits solicitation or leafleting anywhere on campus with the exception of the Free Speech Area on the Martin Luther King Commons, between the Holmes Student Center and Founder’s Library. … All wishing to use the Free Speech
    Area must notify Student Involvement & Leadership Development ….

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  • Student Code of Conduct: Harassment 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    Acts of harassment include the use of words or actions that persistently and wrongfully attack another person. The unwanted communication must be objectively offensive to a reasonable person before it may be considered actionable harassment.

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  • Guidepost: Discrimination and Harassment 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    Harassment of individuals, especially based on race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or disability will not be tolerated in University residence halls or by the University in general.

    Such harassment is defined as acting or communicating in a manner that intentionally harasses, coerces, intimidates, threatens, or seriously embarrasses any persons, especially on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or disability.

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  • Student Code of Conduct: Sexual Harassment 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    Sexual Harassment: Unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature and can include unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, nonverbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature, including sexual assault or acts of sexual violence.

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  • Guidepost: Decorating Your Room 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Posting Policies

    The outside of the room door and the window facing outward are considered public display areas representing the character of the institution. Public display areas may be monitored to insure that inappropriate materials/messages are not visible. University administration/residence hall staff uses the policies, mission, and values of the institution to determine the appropriateness or inappropriateness of public area displays. Residents may be required to remove public displays deemed as inappropriate.

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Green Light Policies
  • 5 More of the Worst Free Speech Violations on College Campuses

    September 12, 2012

    On Tuesday, I shared the first half of my list of ten of the most common free speech violations which the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE ) encounters in its work defending campus expression. As I noted yesterday, the list is far from comprehensive, and the offenses listed are in no particular order. They do, however, give a sense of the depth and variety of ways free speech is threatened at our colleges and universities. Here are five more of the most common violations against free speech on campus. Be sure to visit yesterday’s post for the first half of […]

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  • 5 Free Speech Threats to Watch Out for on Campus This Election Season

    September 11, 2012

    In its 13 years defending free speech on colleges campuses nationwide, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), where I have worked since 2008, has won nearly 250 public victories on behalf of students and faculty. FIRE has been responsible for well over 100 reforms of unconstitutional and illiberal campus speech policies, with the total number of affected students reaching into the millions.  Needless to say, in all that time FIRE has seen certain types of violations committed over and over. Now, with the linens and seersucker put away and the new school year officially in business, I thought I would […]

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  • NIU Recognizes Students for Sensible Drug Policy

    December 10, 2010

    Today John R. Jones III, associate vice president of Northern Illinois University, informed Jeremy Orbach, president of the school’s chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, that NIU’s administration is stepping in to recognize SSDP as a “social justice, advocacy, and support organization,” which means it can use campus facilities and is eligible for activity fee funding. The administration is thereby overriding the Student Association Senate, which twice voted against recognizing SSDP based on vague, constitutionally suspect criteria. In a letter (PDF) to Orbach, Jones writes: I have made the determination, under the unique circumstances of this case, to administratively […]

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  • What’s a Group Gotta Do to Post a Flyer Around Here?

    December 8, 2010

    by Jacob Sullum reason.com   On Sunday night, Northern Illinois University’s Student Association Senate denied recognition to the school’s chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), which means it may not post flyers or meet on campus. The Senate already had denied activity-fee funding to SSDP, declaring it a “political” group, as opposed to a “social justice” or “advocacy” group. Sunday’s meeting was called to address constitutional objections to this decision raised by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which last month wrote a letter to NIU President John G. Peters noting that NIU, as a state-run […]

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  • Student editors react to ‘Hosty’ decision

    February 28, 2006

    By Ricky Ribeiro at Student Press Law Center Student editors at three student newspapers said college journalists need to start discussing the effects of Hosty v. Carter now that the Supreme Court has decided not to hear the case. “[Hosty]’s come up from time to time [in our newsroom],” said Aaron Seidlitz, editor in chief of Eastern Illinois University’s student newspaper, the Daily Eastern News. “Most of the time it’s with the staff and a few professors as well. I think that every collegiate newspaper should just have conversations with their advisers just to have a better understanding of the […]

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  • Thought Reform 101

    March 1, 2000

    At Wake Forest University last fall, one of the few events designated as “mandatory” for freshman orientation was attendance at Blue Eyed, a filmed racism awareness workshop in which whites are abused, ridiculed, made to fail, and taught helpless passivity so that they can identify with “a person of color for a day.” In Swarthmore College’s dormitories, in the fall of 1998, first-year students were asked to line up by skin color, from lightest to darkest, and to step forward and talk about how they felt concerning their place in that line. Indeed, at almost all of our campuses, some […]

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  • Liberty Requires Tough Choices: The Student Funding Dilemma

    July 31, 2013

    Kanisha Parthasarathy is a FIRE summer intern. Allocating money to student groups is a tricky game. For many colleges, the amount of money given to groups is not increasing at the same rate as the number of student groups vying for recognition and funding. Funding boards usually solve this problem by creating guidelines to determine how much money a student group gets. The problem arises when these rules are applied without viewpoint neutrality, a requirement for public colleges’ funding boards established by the Supreme Court in Rosenberger v. Rectors of the University of Virginia (1995) and Board of Regents of the […]

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  • Victory for Freedom of Speech and Religious Liberty at Northern Illinois U; Political and Religious Organizations Finally Get Equal Treatment

    April 28, 2011

    DEKALB, Ill., April 28, 2011—After months of delay, Northern Illinois University (NIU) has finally given political and religious organizations access to student activity fee funding. In 2010, NIU’s Student Association brazenly flouted Supreme Court precedent by discriminating against all such groups, maintaining extensive double standards, and denying recognition to NIU Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) on two separate occasions. SSDP came to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help. “FIRE commends Northern Illinois University for finally removing all justifications for viewpoint discrimination from its funding policy,” FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said. “It is now up to […]

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  • Under Pressure from FIRE, Northern Illinois U. Finally Recognizes ‘Students for Sensible Drug Policy,’ But Double Standards and Other First Amendment Violations Persist

    December 10, 2010

    Today’s press release announces that Northern Illinois University (NIU) has finally given full recognition to NIU Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) after the Student Association Senate twice denied the group any recognition, which had prevented SSDP from meeting or posting flyers on campus. But Senate policy still denies funding to all “political” and “religious” student organizations. This arbitrary standard classifies Christian, Muslim, and Jewish organizations as “religious” and therefore ineligible for funding, while the campus Baha’i Club is funded as a “cultural” group. Similarly, groups such as Model United Nations are considered “political” while many “social justice” or “advocacy” […]

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  • Take Action: Tell NIU to Meet Its First Amendment Obligations

    December 6, 2010

    Do you have something to say about the many violations of the First Amendment over at Northern Illinois University (NIU), as exposed in today’s press release? Use our Take Action page to give NIU President John G. Peters your opinion. We have offered some suggested language for you to consider. Here’s a letter from Kenyon College Professor Fred Baumann that you might choose to adapt for yourself. We liked it so much, we got his permission to share it with you: Dear President Peters: I see that your student Senate has some very strange rules about what student organizations can […]

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  • Northern Illinois U. Kicks ‘Students for Sensible Drug Policy’ off Campus for Its Views; Campus Policy Attempts to Overrule 5 out of 5 Rights in the First Amendment

    December 6, 2010

    DEKALB, Ill., Dec. 6, 2010—Last night, the Northern Illinois University (NIU) Student Association Senate denied recognition for the second time to NIU Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP). As a result, SSDP may not meet on campus, post flyers, or reapply for recognition for two years. The Senate also denies funding to all “political” and “religious” student organizations, including the Model United Nations, which it labels a “political” group. Meanwhile, groups dubbed “social justice” or “advocacy” groups—including student pro-life, pro-choice, antiwar, women’s rights, and victims’ rights groups—are eligible for funding. SSDP came to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education […]

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  • Greg Lukianoff on ‘The Vicki McKenna Show’

    December 6, 2010

    FIRE President Greg Lukianoff will appear this afternoon on The Vicki McKenna Show to discuss FIRE’s case at Northern Illinois University at 4:35 PM ET. Tune in to hear Greg on WISN in Milwaukee and WIBA in Madison. You also can listen live online.

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  • Speech Code of the Month: Northern Illinois University

    August 5, 2009

    FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for August 2009: Northern Illinois University (NIU). In the NIU Student Code of Conduct, “harassment” is defined as the “Intentional and wrongful use of words, gestures and actions to annoy, alarm, abuse, embarrass, coerce, intimidate or threaten another person.” (Emphasis added.) NIU is a public university, which means it is legally obligated to protect its students’ First Amendment rights. Someone over at NIU clearly needs a First Amendment refresher course, because this policy fails miserably, prohibiting large swaths of constitutionally protected expression. While the university may legitimately prevent students from threatening and […]

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  • University keeps free speech boxed in

    October 11, 2004

    For about 20 years, people who have wished to exercise their First Amendment right to free speech on campus have been confined to a small area off of the King Memorial Commons. Free speech – especially at a public university – should be unrestricted, as long as it doesn’t hinder the educational purpose for which the school was established. About 30 protesters met in the Martin Luther King Commons Thursday in hopes of abolishing the free-speech zone that NIU designated. In 1985, NIU and other universities across the nation chose a location on campus where students could meet and set […]

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