The Ohio State University

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

Speech Code Rating

The Ohio 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.

  • The Ohio State University: Environmental Regulations Invoked to Censor Peaceful Flyer Distribution

    December 13, 2011

    On November 30 and December 6, 2011, students were prevented from peacefully distributing flyers in OSU’s Ohio Union building. The same Ohio Union administrator on both occasions told the students that OSU’s “green zone” environmental policy prohibited distributing paper materials. On the second occasion, the administrator additionally cited the building’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, and told the students that if she allowed them to distribute their flyers, she would have to grant the same privilege to all other OSU student organizations. FIRE informed OSU that the “green zone” designation did not reflect actual OSU policy and […]

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  • The Ohio State University: Refusal to Allow Religious Clubs to Decide Membership Based on Religious Belief

    October 20, 2004

    A coalition of religious groups, including the Muslim Student Association, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, the Christian Graduate Student Alliance, Campus Crusade for Christ, Mosaic, Reformed Christian Students, the Christian Medical Dental Association, Student Christian Fellowship, and International Friendships, used religious criteria for decisions regarding group leadership, group message, and, sometimes, group membership at the Ohio State University. Ohio State’s official recognition policy had stated that in order for groups to receive full recognition from the university, they could not "discriminate" on the basis of religion. FIRE wrote to Ohio State President Karen A. Holbrook, pointing out that as a public institution, […]

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Red Light Policies

  • Sexual Harassment Poster 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    Sexual harassment is illegal. Inappropriate behavior includes: * Sexual jokes, innuendoes, gestures * Unwanted flirtation, advances, or propositions * Pressure for sex * Leering * Display of sexually suggestive objects/visuals * Display/transmission of sexually suggestive electronic content * Any unnecessary, unwanted physical contact * Sexual assault

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Yellow Light Policies
  • Sexual Harassment by Students in the Non-Employment Context 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    Sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other physical or verbal conduct of a sexual nature when it meets any of the following: … Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work or academic performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment for working, learning, or living on campus. Sexual harassment can occur between any individuals associated with the University, e.g., an employee and a supervisor; coworkers; faculty members; a faculty, staff member, or student and a customer, vendor, or contractor; students; or a student and a faculty member.

    Examples of sexual harassment include, but are not limited to:

    A.     Some incidents of physical assault.

    B.     Direct or implied threats that submission to sexual advances will be a condition of employment, work status, promotion, grades, or letters of recommendation.

    C.     Direct propositions of a sexual nature and/or subtle pressure for sexual activity that is unwanted and unreasonably interferes with a person’s work or academic environment.

    D.     A pattern of conduct that unreasonably interferes with the work or academic environment (not legitimately related to the subject matter of a course) including:

    1.      Sexual comments or inappropriate references to gender.

    2.      Sexually explicit statements, questions, jokes, or anecdotes regardless of the means of communication (oral, written, electronic, etc.).

    3.      Unwanted touching, patting, hugging, brushing against a person’s body, or staring.

    4.      Inquiries and commentaries about sexual activity, experience, or orientation.

    5.      The display of inappropriate sexually oriented materials in a location where others can view them.

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  • Bias Assessment and Response Team: Report a Bias Incident 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Policies on Bias and Hate Speech

    Bias Incidents: Acts or behavior motivated by the offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, veteran status, ethnic/national origin groups or sexual-orientation group. While these acts do not necessarily rise to the level of a crime, a violation of state law, University policy, or the student code of conduct; a bias act may contribute to creating an unsafe, negative, or unwelcome environment for the victim, anyone who shares the same social identity as the victim, and/or community members of the University.

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  • Sexual Harassment: Frequently Asked Questions 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    What are some examples of sexual harassment?
    Inappropriate behavior may include:
    * Sexual jokes, innuendoes, gestures
    * Unwanted flirtation, advances, or propositions
    * Pressure for sex
    * Leering
    * Display of sexually suggestive objects/visuals
    * Display/transmission of sexually suggestive electronic content
    * Any unnecessary, unwanted physical contact
    * Sexual assault (if this occurs, call the police immediately & maintain evidence)

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  • Residence Hall Handbook: Residents’ Rights 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    Freedom from harassment, including sexual harassment, as well as threats of intimidation and physical or emotional harm. This includes acts of ethnic or racial intimidation, hazing, or harassment for reasons of race, religion, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, age, disability, or veteran status.

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Green Light Policies
  • Code of Student Conduct: Introduction and Purpose 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression

    The core missions of the university are research, teaching and learning, and service. Preservation of academic freedom and free and open exchange of ideas and opinions for all members of the university are central to these missions.

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  • Groups says OSU restricts freedom of speech

    March 5, 2014

    by Collin Binkley at The Columbus Dispatch A poster warning against sexual harassment at Ohio State University led a national group to conclude that the school “substantially restricts freedom of speech.” In an annual ratings publication by the group Fire, which works to protect freedom of speech on campuses, Ohio State was one of 10 schools in the state that earned a “red light” for having at least one policy that limits freedom of speech. Only one Ohio school, Cleveland State University, earned a “green light.” The group dinged Ohio State for a poster by the human-resources office at the school. In big, bold typeface, it […]

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  • Ohio State’s on FIRE

    January 22, 2009

    By Debbie Bitzan at The Sentinel As the largest university in the nation, one could only hope that The Ohio State University would be an open canvas for academic and intellectual exchange, as well as a free zone for sharing opinions, ideas, and values. However, according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), Ohio State is preventing such an open environment from existing. According to its website, TheFIRE.org, FIRE works to “defend and sustain individual rights at America’s colleges and universities.” Some of the rights mentioned are freedom of speech, due process, and legal equality, “the essential qualities […]

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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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  • Campus Left to Christians, Conservatives: Shut Up!

    December 24, 2005

    By Mark Tapscott at Townhall.com Scratch many of the administrators in charge on American campuses these days and you often find a neo-Stalinist who has no hesitation about suppressing views that deviate from leftist orthodoxy. If you doubt me, try supporting Christianity or conservatism in a public way in the ivy covered groves of American academe. Take California State University at San Bernadino, for example, where administrators refuse to charter the Christian Students Association because the group thinks its members should be professing Christians. Imagine that! The group ‘would not be required to admit members who did not support the […]

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  • The Ohio State University Gets The Law Wrong on FERPA

    November 28, 2012

    The Student Press Law Center’s (SPLC’s) “FERPA Fact” Tumblr is at once humorous and disturbing. It awards a number of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan heads corresponding to the silliness of a university’s misuse of the Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) to deny a request for information. FERPA is routinely abused by colleges looking for any justification to avoid releasing embarrassing information. You don’t need to take our word for it: this is the view of the man who wrote the law. This week’s “FERPA fact” gets three Arne Duncans, which would cause me to crack a smile […]

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  • Student Newspaper Criticizes University Abuses of FERPA

    June 1, 2009

    An opinion piece published today in The Lantern, a student newspaper at The Ohio State University, decries the tendency on the part of colleges and universities to misuse and abuse the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA). The editorial draws upon a recent report in The Columbus Dispatch, which has also been highlighted in The Chronicle of Higher Education. FERPA was enacted to provide students with confidentiality in their educational records, including student disciplinary records, and to provide students and their parents with access to those records. It is meant to ensure that a student’s educational records […]

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  • Rights in the News: FIRE’s Letter to Obama Hopes to Inaugurate New Era for Speech on Campus

    January 23, 2009

    This past Tuesday, which saw the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States, FIRE sent President Obama a letter detailing the violations pervading America’s higher education system, and requesting that the President and his administration join the fight against unconstitutional speech policies that threaten the liberties of millions of students. Phi Beta Cons is just one of the many interested observers waiting to see how the new administration will respond to FIRE’s letter. As a constitutional scholar and a former lecturer on constitutional law, we and many others in the legal and academic communities are […]

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  • At The Ohio State University, Student Newspaper Highlights “Red Light” Status, FIRE’s Work

    January 22, 2009

    An independent student newspaper at The Ohio State University (OSU) has published an article today highlighting the fact that FIRE has classified OSU as a “red light” school and discussing FIRE’s work on campus. In this month’s edition of The Sentinel, OSU student and Campus Freedom Network Member Debbie Bitzan writes: As the largest university in the nation, one could only hope that The Ohio State University would be an open canvas for academic and intellectual exchange, as well as a free zone for sharing opinions, ideas, and values. However, according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), […]

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  • Unconstitutional ‘Bias Reporting’ Programs: A Nationwide Problem

    November 29, 2007

    This fall, The College of William & Mary launched a Bias Incident Reporting System “to assist members of the William and Mary community—students, staff, and faculty—in bringing bias incidents to the College’s attention.” In its initial incarnation, the system was fraught with constitutional problems, from both free speech and due process standpoints. The system initially allowed for anonymous reporting, providing that “[a] person reporting online may report anonymously by leaving the personal information fields blank.” The definition of “bias” was overbroad and encompassed constitutionally protected expression: “A bias incident consists of harassment, intimidation, or other hostile behavior that is directed […]

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  • Speech Code of the Month: The Ohio State University

    September 6, 2007

    FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for September 2007: The Ohio State University. The Office of University Housing at Ohio State, a public university, maintains a Diversity Statement that severely restricts what students in Ohio State’s residence halls can and cannot say. Students are instructed: “Do not joke about differences related to race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, ability, socioeconomic background, etc.” Of the many hundreds of policies FIRE has catalogued over the years, this is the first that flatly instructs students, “do not joke” about controversial topics. As anyone who has ever lived in a dormitory can likely […]

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  • Phi Beta Kappa Should Prove Its Commitment to Free Speech: Part 1

    January 23, 2006

    In November, FIRE wrote a nine-page letter to Phi Beta Kappa (PBK) to urge the prestigious honor society to hold its member institutions to higher standards of free speech and expression. A PBK spokesperson has claimed that “for 225 years we have endeavored to place our chapters only at those American institutions of higher education that share our commitment to freedom of inquiry.” But as FIRE’s letter pointed out, PBK offers membership to a host of institutions that have speech codes that are unconstitutional and have a chilling effect on campus speech. One of the institutions that FIRE highlighted in […]

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  • Religious Liberty and Free Association at LSU: Not a ‘Conservative’ Concern

    March 17, 2005

    Today, FIRE announces a victory for freedom of religion and association at Louisiana State University, where the Muslim Students Association (MSA) recently attained official recognition. The group, which had already been recognized for 30 some years on campus, was unable to re-register for more than a year because it didn’t want to include additional “nondiscrimination” language in its constitution as prescribed by a new university policy. (See “Is ‘Derecognize’ a Word?” for more information about the significance of student organization recognition on campus.) According to students, in 2003 the university began requiring student organizations to explicitly add “religion” and “sexual […]

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  • Victory for Religious Freedom at Ohio State

    October 4, 2004

    COLUMBUS, Ohio, October 4, 2004—The Ohio State University has agreed to change a “nondiscrimination” policy that prohibited religious student organizations from making critical decisions based on religious criteria. The decision came a few weeks after the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) wrote to Ohio State on behalf of a broad interfaith coalition of Muslim and Christian student organizations that felt that the policy interfered with the First Amendment’s guarantees of religious freedom and free association. FIRE’s effort coincided with that of the Christian Legal Society (CLS), which had already filed a lawsuit asserting the same claims against Ohio […]

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