Ohio University

Location: Athens, Ohio
Website: http://www.ohio.edu
Type: Public
Federal Circuit: 6th Circuit

Speech Code Rating

Ohio 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.

  • Ohio University: Political Flyers Censored in Dorms

    September 28, 2012

    In September 2012, Ohio University student Jillyann Burns posted a flyer on the door to her residence hall room, criticizing the policy positions of President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney. Shortly after Burns posted her flyer, a resident assistant warned residents that “NO political posters/flyers should be hung in the hallways or on you[r] door until 14 days before an election.” Following a room inspection on September 17, Burns was informed again of this requirement and the possibility of discipline if she did not comply. FIRE wrote to OU on September 28, informing the university that its restrictions on […]

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Red Light Policies

  • Student Code of Conduct: Mental or Bodily Harm to Others 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    4.  Mental or Bodily Harm to Others - Conduct that causes harm or has the potential to harm another.  Conduct covered by this offense includes but is not limited to:

    a.  intentionally inflicting mental or bodily harm upon any person;

    b.  attempting to inflict mental or bodily harm upon another person;
    c.  taking any reckless, but not accidental, action from which mental or bodily harm could result to another person;
    d.  causing any person to believe that the offender may cause mental or bodily harm;
    f.  any act which demeans, degrades, disgraces any person;
    g.  coercing another to engage in an act of membership in a student organization that causes or creates a risk or mental or bodily harm to any person (e.g., hazing).

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Yellow Light Policies
  • Computer and Network Use 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies

    In making acceptable use of resources, you must NOT: … Use resources to intimidate or single out individuals or groups for degradation or harassment in violation of federal or state law and other university policies.

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  • Student Housing Handbook: Posting Policy 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Posting Policies

    Posters should be informative, not editorial in nature with the exception of political election posters.

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  • Student Code of Conduct: Community Expectations 13-14

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

    [T]he following expectations of behavior have been established: … Students and student organizations are expected to be responsible members of a diverse community, and to honor and respect differences of culture, lifestyle, and religion. … The Ohio University community is an open forum involving the free exchange of ideas and opinions. For exchange to occur there must be a continuous acceptance of freedom of ideas and expression and civility in disagreement.

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Green Light Policies
  • Sexual Misconduct 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    Sexual Harassment by Hostile Environment: Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with a person’s work or academic performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment for working, learning, or living on campus.

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  • Civil Rights Experts: Florida Universities Prime Offenders Against Students’ Free Speech

    November 13, 2012

    by Eric Giunta Sunshine State News   Each of the 10 public colleges and universities in Florida evaluated by a major civil liberties organization has “some policies that could ban or excessively regulate protected speech,” and nearly all of them have “at least one policy that both clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech. That’s the verdict of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a nonpartisan civil rights organization dedicated, in its own words, “to defending core constitutional rights on university campuses.” Last week the foundation set its sights on Tallahassee’s own Florida State University in a memo addressed to […]

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  • Free Speech on Politics at School

    October 16, 2012

    Ohio University is no longer banning political speech in its dorms in the final weeks leading up to November’s presidential election. Robert Shibley explains that when Jillyann Burns, a student, was ordered to remove a political flyer from her dorm room door, she contacted his organization, The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). “After a room inspection, they told her that she had to take it down or else face going to a disciplinary hearing, simply for having a poster on her door that criticized both President Obama and Governor Romney,” Shibley details. Burns posted the notice, an invitation for like—minded Bobcats to come to […]

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  • Jillyann Burns, Libertarian Ohio University Student, Wins Free Speech Fight

    October 10, 2012

    Jillyann Burns likes neither President Obama nor Mitt Romney and figured there were others students at Ohio University in Athens who are “sick of the two party system.” So in early September she pasted a notice on the door of her dorm inviting like-minded Bobcats to come to a meeting of the OU College Libertarians. Days later, though, a residence hall adviser blasted out an email to students warning that “NO political posters/flyers should be hung in the hallways or on you[r] door until 14 days before an election.” Burns was ordered to take the flyer down. As a protest, she put up a […]

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  • Free speech advocates say OU violates 1st Amendment rights

    February 27, 2009

    Ohio University and President Roderick McDavis have been warned by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education of the possibility of legal action if OU does not revise two policies the organization says violate the First Amendment. In a report released by FIRE on Dec. 15, OU received a “red-light” grade, indicating the school has “at least one policy that both clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech.” FIRE is a nonprofit organization that tracks alleged violations of free speech at colleges. According to FIRE, OU’s sexual harassment policy and a section of the Student Code of Conduct that defines […]

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  • Do campus tribunals wield too much power?

    March 13, 2006

    By John Higgins at The Beacon Journal A Summit County jury found Charles Plinton not guilty of selling drugs to a confidential informant in 2004. A few weeks later, a University of Akron disciplinary board found him “responsible” for “selling drugs to a confidential informant.” The difference between those two words — guilty and responsible — may not sound meaningful to the average person. But it’s a distinction that begins to explain the secretive world of college justice in which campus committees may re-try the facts of serious crimes after criminal courts have already decided them. Critics see the hearings […]

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  • What’s ‘Out of Proportion’ About Defending the First Amendment?

    October 15, 2012

    As we publicized last week, Ohio University (OU) found itself in a constitutional pickle after it censored a political flyer that student Jillyann Burns had put on her dorm room door. Fortunately, OU corrected its error quickly, and FIRE commended the university for doing so.  Unfortunately, despite its quick action, OU is also apparently claiming that the whole matter wasn’t that big a deal. OU campus publication The New Political quotes Vice President for Student Affairs Ryan Lombardi as saying that the matter has been “completely blown out of proportion” by the publicity FIRE has brought to the case.  Lombardi […]

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  • With Election Day Close, Ohio University Ends Political Censorship in Dorms

    October 9, 2012

    Here’s today’s press release:  ATHENS, Ohio, October 9, 2012—Ohio University dorms are no longer censoring students’ political speech, freeing students to make their voices heard in the final weeks before Election Day. After student Jillyann Burns was ordered to remove a flyer criticizing both President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney from her residence hall door, she turned to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help. “Our society has long recognized that not only does political expression deserve the strongest protections against censorship, but that the college campus is of particular importance to our national dialogue,” said […]

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  • With Election Day Close, Ohio University Ends Political Censorship in Dorms

    October 9, 2012

    ATHENS, Ohio, October 9, 2012—Ohio University dorms are no longer censoring students’ political speech, freeing students to make their voices heard in the final weeks before Election Day. After student Jillyann Burns was ordered to remove a flyer criticizing both President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney from her residence hall door, she turned to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help. “Our society has long recognized that not only does political expression deserve the strongest protections against censorship, but that the college campus is of particular importance to our national dialogue,” said FIRE Senior Vice President […]

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  • Ohio University Newspaper Writes Against Speech Codes

    January 18, 2010

    Rebecca McKinsey’s excellent article on Ohio University’s (OU’s)_speech codes, appearing recently in OU student newspaper The Post, seems to have called her fellow students to attention. Shortly after the article appeared, The Post ran a staff editorial coming out against the codes in effect at their university.  Citing FIRE’s current Spotlight on Speech Codes report as well as McKinsey’s article, the editorial calls FIRE’s assessment of OU’s policies “startling” and declares it “inevitable” that enforcement of the policies will eventually result in a lawsuit against the university. OU’s speech codes, The Post‘s editorial staff determines, “remain overly broad in a way that ultimately benefits OU” rather than the rights of OU’s students. FIRE is […]

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  • Rights in the News: Yale and Minnesota Still in Headlines as FIRE Eyes 2010 Campaign

    January 8, 2010

    Even during the supposedly slow Christmas-to-New-Year’s stretch, FIRE’s cases continued to captivate the media, none more so than the recent brouhaha at Yale over a censored F. Scott Fitzgerald-quoting t-shirt calling Harvard men “sissies.” Following Greg’s earlier writings in The Huffington Post, Robert wrote on the case for Pajamas Media. (Knowing such PC nonsense when he saw it, Glenn Reynolds tipped them both at Instapundit.) Both The Boston Globe and U.S. News & World Report have picked up the story as well. And in a wonderfully caustic post, Write Bastard blogger Ian Wood heaps scorn on Yale, where apparently “the […]

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  • Ohio University Student Reporter Exposes Administrators’ Selective Memories

    January 7, 2010

    Ohio University (OU) student reporter Rebecca McKinsey does my home state proud with an excellent article in the university’s student newspaper, The Post, about FIRE’s red-light rating of Ohio University and its comparable ratings of other Ohio schools. Most noteworthy is the research that McKinsey evidently did for the article, which produced some very interesting quotes from university officials. In response to FIRE Director of Legal and Public Advocacy Will Creeley’s objections to OU’s unconstitutional speech codes, such as its ban on any act that “demeans, degrades, disgraces any person” (a series of terms that seems to have been selected […]

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  • Rights in the News: Harvey’s Harvard Candidacy Continues to Grab Headlines

    February 27, 2009

    As April’s election for Harvard University’s Board of Overseers draws nearer, the candidacy of FIRE co-founder and chairman Harvey Silverglate continues to attract attention and enthusiasm. Scot Lehigh’s excellent column in The Boston Globe is just the latest testament to this, as Adam wrote earlier for The Torch (and as the Cato Institute’s Cato @ Liberty blog briefly noted as well). Even unlikely supporters such as this blogger in Falmouth, Nova Scotia have taken notice of Harvey’s candidacy. FIRE expects the energy to continue to rise in the final weeks before voting ballots are sent out to Harvard alumni. Hopefully […]

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  • Students Oppose Protest Restrictions at Ohio University

    October 9, 2007

    The Post, a student newspaper at Ohio University, published a staff editorial today opposing the university’s use of “free speech zones.” According to the editorial, Ohio University has designated 22 spaces on campus as free speech zones—a decently large number—but requires students and student groups to reserve those spaces in advance in order to hold events. The Post editorial staff argues that students should have the right to protest on campus without prior reservation, and also argues that the university should do away with its designated zones altogether and open the entire campus up to free speech. The editorial concludes, […]

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  • At Ohio University, Student Group Takes Shot at Speech Zones

    January 19, 2007

    Students at Ohio University (OU) are organizing protests against the school’s designated “free speech zones,” according to an article published in yesterday’s Athens News. According to the students, OU officials attempted to disband an anti-war rally held by other student groups on November 3. Over winter break, some students received letters informing them that they had violated the school’s “free speech zone” policy for “holding an unauthorized demonstration outside of the university’s approved “free-speech zones.’” In response, aggrieved students formed an Ohio University chapter of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). Sophomore Will Klatt, one of the group’s cofounders, told […]

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  • Why Ohio University Is a ‘Red Light’ School

    May 24, 2005

    Today, our newest program officer, Samantha Harris, received an email from a student at Ohio University. The student wanted to know exactly what policies earned Ohio University a “red light” rating from our speechcodes.org website. Ohio University’s red-light status is well-earned. I was shocked enough by it that I mentioned part of OU’s code in my 2003 Senate testimony, using it as an example of policies that [d]angerously trivialize society’s most serious crimes in an effort to get at “offensive speech.” Ohio University’s “Statement on Sexual Assault,” for example, declares that “Sexual assault occurs along a continuum of intrusion and […]

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