University of Rhode Island

Location: Kingston, Rhode Island
Website: http://www.uri.edu
Type: Public
Federal Circuit: 1st Circuit

Speech Code Rating

University of Rhode Island has been given the speech code rating Yellow. Yellow light colleges and universities are those institutions with at least one ambiguous policy that too easily encourages administrative abuse and arbitrary application. Read more here.

  • University of Rhode Island: Professor’s Anti-Gun Tweets Deemed Threatening

    December 18, 2012

    Following the December 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, University of Rhode Island Associate Professor Erik Loomis posted criticism of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and its Chief Executive Officer, Wayne LaPierre, to his Twitter account, including a tweet calling for LaPierre’s “head on a stick.” In response to the public controversy generated by these comments, URI President David Dooley issued a statement on December 18 stating that URI “does not condone acts or threats of violence.” FIRE wrote to Dooley on December 21 to make clear that Loomis’ statements did not qualify as true threats and were fully protected […]

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  • University of Rhode Island: Student Senate Attempts to Compel Speech

    March 13, 2007

    At the University of Rhode Island, the College Republicans came under fire for advertising a “scholarship” during “Conservative Coming Out Week,” in order to satirically protest scholarships awarded on the bases of race, gender, or nationality. Even though the College Republicans never awarded the “scholarship” to anyone, the Student Organizations Advisory and Review Committee (SOARC) decided that just advertising the award violated URI’s anti-discrimination bylaws. The committee directed the College Republicans to either publicly apologize or face derecognition, which would deny the club the ability to reserve meeting space or apply for funding. Despite a letter from FIRE informing the […]

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Yellow Light Policies
  • Student Handbook: Community Standards of Behavior- Information About Sexual Harassment and Assault 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    Sexual harassment includes verbal and physical behaviors that range from sexual gestures or teasing to sexual assault.

    Verbal sexual harassment may include, but is not limited to sexual remarks, comments, jokes and innuendoes, whistles and cat calls, crude and offensive language, comments on physical attributes, use of demeaning or inappropriate terms, discussion of sexual activities, the posing of personal questions, the spreading of stories about someone’s social or sexual life, and propositions or pressure for social or sexual contact.

    Peer sexual harassment is a form of prohibited sex discrimination where the harassing conduct creates a hostile environment when it is unwelcome and when the conduct is sufficiently severe, persistent, or pervasive to limit a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from the educational program, or to create a hostile or abusive educational environment.

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  • Student Handbook: Community Standards of Behavior- Bias-Based Incidents 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Policies on Bias and Hate Speech

    A bias-based incident is one which has a negative effect on an individual or group and which is based on or motivated by bias against race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, disability or age. The incident is experienced as hurtful by one or many and may involve harassment, the creation of a hostile environment, property damage, verbal threats of violence, or physical violence. The incident may or may not involve breaches of University Policies or state or federal law.


    In response to such incidents, the University may plan campus programs or enhance educational efforts to help prevent future incidents. If the perpetrator of the incident can be identified and if established policies or laws are violated, disciplinary or criminal action will be taken.

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  • Student Handbook: Public Speaking 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Protest and Demonstration Policies

    Visitors to the campus, students, staff, or faculty wishing to publicly address the University community at other than a University-sponsored event must first check with the Memorial Union scheduling office to insure that the time, place, and manner of the address does not interfere with normal University functioning.

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  • Student Handbook: URI Cornerstones 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Policies Restricting Freedom of Conscience

    As members of this community, we subscribe to the following principles which form the foundation of our endeavors:

    We respect the rights and dignity of each individual and group, we reject prejudice and intolerance, and we work to understand differences.

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Green Light Policies
  • Student Handbook: Statement of Students’ Rights 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression

    Students have the right to freedom of expression, freedom of association, freedom of inquiry and peaceful assembly.

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  • Student Handbook: Community Standards of Behavior- Harassment 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    Harassment. Repeated unwanted contact or communication by any means and behavior or verbal abuse that threatens to injure or endangers the health, safety, or welfare of oneself or another person is unacceptable. Harassment is conduct that has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive or which intends to cause a person to suffer substantial emotional distress.

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  • Examiner Local Editorial: Muzzling free speech on campus

    January 2, 2013

    One New Year’s resolution we’d like to see in 2013 is a renewed effort to uphold the First Amendment on college campuses. According to a new report by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE, 62 percent of the nation’s colleges and universities “maintain severely restrictive speech codes … that clearly and substantially prohibit protected speech.” FIRE noted that the overwhelming majority of speech is protected. But narrow exceptions (such as “fighting words,” obscenity and defamation) “are often misused and abused by universities to punish constitutionally protected speech.” Restrictions intended to protect students from harassment or bullying have been […]

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  • Satiric scholarship creates First Amendment firestorm

    April 27, 2007

    For scores of college students across the nation, the next few weeks of spring will constitute a countdown to summer recess. Between preparing for finals and cleaning out dorm rooms, one would think that the nation’s collegiate youth would be limited in the amount of free time on their hands. One would be wrong. As a number of college students prepare to sit down and take a written examination on the history and meaning of the First Amendment, students at the University of Rhode Island (URI) are learning firsthand about censorship and government disregard for civil liberties. On Wednesday, under […]

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  • Campus Watch: They dared to joke

    April 24, 2007

    The College Republicans at the University of Rhode Island are facing official extinction for refusing to apologize for a satire. The CRs had advertised a fictitious $100 “scholarship” for white, heterosexual, American males—an intentionally unsubtle jab at URI’s many scholarships offered on the basis of race and gender. The URI Student Senate demanded a public apology—supposedly to the students who were “injured” by spending their time applying for the mock “scholarship.” It’s plain, of course, that the student government wanted to slap the CRs down for their politically incorrect joke. As the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education noted in […]

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  • College GOP group derecognized for anti-PC stunt

    April 20, 2007

    The student senate at a Rhode Island college has drawn fire for disbanding the school’s Republican group after the group refused to apologize for a satirical stunt designed to highlight political correctness on American campuses. The College Republicans at the University of Rhode Island (URI) established a satirical scholarship to ridicule the notion of scholarships based on race, gender or nationality. It offered a $100 grant to a student who was white, heterosexual, American and male. In the application, applicants were asked, “In 100 words or less, what does being a white heterosexual American male mean to you? As a […]

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  • University of Rhode Island student groups duel over free speech

    April 20, 2007

    Among other rights, the First Amendment protects satire and parody as a form of free speech. But the Student Senate at the University of Rhode Island appears to have lost its sense of humor when it comes to the campus group College Republicans. Earlier this week, a Student Senate committee recommended revoking the College Republicans’ recognition as a school-sanctioned group because the group refused to apologize for a satirical advertisement that offered a $100 scholarship to a white, heterosexual, American male. The advertisement ran last November in the student newspaper, the Good 5 Cent Cigar. Forty students applied for the […]

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  • Republican student group’s decision to sponsor satirical, whites-only scholarship starts row

    April 18, 2007

    A decision by a student Republican group at the University of Rhode Island to sponsor a satirical scholarship for white, heterosexual men has started a row on campus. The group’s move poked fun at the fact that many scholarships at American universities are targeted at groups that are perceived to be at a disadvantage, including racial minorities and women. But student leaders reacted angrily: threatening to cut off money and other perks from the College Republicans for allegedly violating an anti-discrimination clause in the student Senate’s rules, according to university officials. A committee of the student Senate also has asked […]

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  • GOP group protests apology demands over whites-only scholarship

    April 18, 2007

    College Republicans at the University of Rhode Island are fighting a demand that they apologize for sponsoring a satirical scholarship for white, heterosexual men. A committee of the school’s student Senate has threatened to cut off money and other perks from the College Republicans for allegedly violating an anti-discrimination clause in the Senate’s rules, according to URI officials. The Senate committee also has asked to review the College Republicans’ activities. An apology from the group would end most of the disciplinary actions. The young Republicans argue their “scholarship” advertised last year wasn’t misleading or discriminatory because they never seriously considered […]

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  • Carothers: Senate can’t ‘impose sanctions’ on College Republicans

    April 18, 2007

    In an unprecedented move, University of Rhode Island President Robert L. Carothers directed the Student Senate to end its demand for a public apology from the College Republicans. Five weeks ago, the senate made its decision on the White Heterosexual American Male scholarship controversy, voting unanimously for a written apology from the student group to be published in the Cigar. The punishment also required the College Republicans to have its events and activities approved by the Student Organization Advisory and Review Committee for one year. The club responded, saying it would continue to battle what they called “forced speech.” On […]

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  • Virginia Tech Supports the Troops and the First Amendment at the Same Time

    September 6, 2013

    My favorite bumper sticker is an American flag with the caption: “Think. It’s patriotic.” That’s essentially what Steven Salaita, a professor of English at Virginia Tech, was trying to say when he posted commentary on Salon arguing against uncritical support of the military. But he chose to do so in a deliberately provocative way, framing his essay as an explanation for why he declined to donate his change (18 cents) from a convenience store purchase “to support the troops.” The result, according to The Washington Post, was a “backlash” against him that has grown from “outrage on social media into calls […]

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  • Revisiting Twitter Controversy, University of Rhode Island President Issues New Statement Acknowledging First Amendment

    December 28, 2012

    University of Rhode Island (URI) President David Dooley issued a new statement this past Sunday regarding Associate Professor Erik Loomis’ recent criticism of the National Rifle Association. Following the tragic murders in Newtown, Connecticut, Loomis took to Twitter to sharply criticize the NRA. Among other statements, Loomis called for NRA Chief Executive Officer Wayne LaPierre’s “head on a stick.” Loomis’ hyperbole generated significant criticism, including calls for his firing and arrest. As a result, Loomis was questioned by police and called into a meeting with a URI administrator, and even reported receiving death threats. Dooley first addressed the situation in […]

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  • Standing Up for a Professor’s Right to Free Speech, Even While Disagreeing!

    December 19, 2012

    Protecting controversial or offensive speech is what the First Amendment is all about. After all, no one tries to censor speech that they like. FIRE’s core mission is the defense of students and faculty from censorship, and as defenders of free speech on campus, we often defend the rights of people who have said things that others find inflammatory, even though FIRE takes no position on the speech in question. Since there’s no shortage of controversial speech on campus, you can imagine we’re pretty busy. That’s why we’re so appreciative when others join our cause and highlight threats to free […]

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  • This Month in FIRE History: Student Senate Attempts to Compel Speech

    April 30, 2010

    In April of 2007 at the University of Rhode Island (URI), the future of the College Republicans was in jeopardy. The group had advertised a “scholarship” that satirically protested scholarships awarded on the basis of race, gender, or nationality. The advertisements for the “WHAM Scholarship,” short for White Heterosexual American Males, were posted as a joke during “Conservative Coming Out Week” and were never actually awarded. The Student Senate decided that the political commentary violated URI’s anti-discrimination bylaws, and the College Republicans were told to either publicly apologize or face derecognition. When the Student Senate refused to take back this […]

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  • Robert L. Shibley: Fighting for free speech on 2 R.I. campuses

    January 18, 2008

    It’s no secret that the climate on America’s campuses for fundamental rights such as freedom of speech and religion can be grim. College students often face opposition to exercising their rights that most Americans never encounter in their daily lives. Consider two recent and well-publicized controversies in the Ocean State. While these incidents should never have happened, they certainly offered students, administrators and the public valuable lessons in American liberty. Brown University was home to one of the most mysterious cases that the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has ever seen—mysterious because the university never explained why it […]

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  • John Leo on Censorship Tactics in ‘The New York Sun’

    May 3, 2007

    Yesterday’s issue of The New York Sun includes a very telling opinion piece by John Leo that looks at the ploys used by university administrators in their efforts to stifle student speech. “It’s not news that the modern university is censorship-prone, particularly when conservatives wish to speak, but the tactics of the censors keep changing,” Leo writes, and Torch readers undoubtedly realize the truthfulness of such an observation. Leo goes on to recount different approaches we at FIRE are all too familiar with, as many of these examples are straight from recent FIRE cases. Leo’s list of censorship devices includes […]

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  • Under FIRE: Campus speech regulations once again

    April 30, 2007

    This article is available by subscription only from The New York Times Select.

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  • Victory for Free Expression at the University of Rhode Island

    April 26, 2007

    Today’s press release announces that after a months-long showdown over the University of Rhode Island (URI) College Republicans’ satirical “scholarship” for white, heterosexual American males, the Student Senate has finally acknowledged its constitutional obligations. At the Senate meeting last night, the Executive Committee voted against last week’s proposed bill to derecognize the College Republicans because they refused to publicly apologize for advertising the “scholarship.” Senate President Neil Leston instead proposed a new bill that requires the group to issue explanations of their intentions to all the students who applied for the “scholarship.” The bill also provides for the Senate to […]

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  • Victory for Freedom of Expression at the University of Rhode Island

    April 26, 2007

    PROVIDENCE, R.I., April 26, 2007—In a meeting last night, the Student Senate of the University of Rhode Island (URI) voted against a proposal to derecognize the College Republicans, holding that the group need not apologize for advertising a satirical white, heterosexual, American male “scholarship.” This decision overturns last week’s Student Senate committee vote to revoke the College Republicans’ official recognition after they refused to apologize for advertising the “scholarship.” Heeding pressure from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), national media, URI’s administration, and a concerned public, the Student Senate finally acknowledged its constitutional obligations with last night’s vote. […]

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  • URI Student Senate Meeting Determines CRs’ Fate Tonight

    April 25, 2007

    The fate of the University of Rhode Island (URI) College Republicans (CRs) rests on a meeting of the Student Senate tonight. The CRs have been threatened with revocation of their official student group status for advertising a satirical “White, Heterosexual, American Male” (WHAM) scholarship for $100. No less than eight letters in support of the CR’s right to free expression have been published in The Good Five Cent Cigar, the URI student paper (all links below are to the URI CRs’ website because of registration requirements for The Good Five Cent Cigar and The Providence Journal):  Student Senate actions ‘illegitimate […]

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  • FIRE’s Case at URI Hits the Media

    April 20, 2007

    FIRE’s defense of the College Republicans at the University of Rhode Island (URI) has gained the attention of local and national media, including a front-and-center spot on today’s homepage of FOXNews.com. The accompanying article by Melissa Drosjack explores our fight for the College Republicans’ right to advertise a satirical “scholarship,” despite the Student Senate’s demand for an apology. Today’s issue of The Boston Globe also ran a story from the Associated Press that highlighted our efforts at URI.   Also, Torch readers can listen online this Monday at 8:10 a.m. Eastern for a live radio interview with FIRE’s own Robert […]

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  • URI President Carothers Responds to FIRE Ally

    April 18, 2007

    Today, FIRE went public with the case of the University of Rhode Island College Republicans, who face derecognition by the URI Student Senate because they refuse to apologize for offering a satirical $100 scholarship to white, heterosexual, American males. You can get everything you need to know about this shameful episode out of today’s press release and Tara’s blog, but I want to draw a bit more attention to the unusual twist in this case: the fact that the Student Senate is defying not only the First Amendment but also URI President Robert Carothers, who has informed them (correctly) that […]

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  • URI Student Senate Committee Votes to Derecognize College Republicans

    April 18, 2007

    FIRE’s press release today announces that a committee of the University of Rhode Island (URI) Student Senate voted on Monday to derecognize the College Republicans.   As we said last week, the Student Organizations Advisory and Review Committee (SOARC) has for months attempted to force the College Republicans to publicly apologize for advertising a satirical “scholarship” for white, heterosexual, American males. College Republicans President Ryan Bilodeau appeared on the Rhode Island news in November defending his group’s satirical protest. About 40 students submitted applications for the “scholarship,” which was never actually awarded to anyone.   Because the College Republicans simply […]

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  • University of Rhode Island Student Senate Dumps College Republicans

    April 18, 2007

    PROVIDENCE, R.I., April 18, 2007—Displaying a dramatic disregard for students’ constitutional rights, a committee of the University of Rhode Island (URI) Student Senate voted on Monday to derecognize the College Republicans student group. For months, the Student Senate has demanded that the group publicly apologize for advertising a satirical $100 “scholarship” for white, heterosexual, American males. The College Republicans refused to apologize and contacted the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help. FIRE is now calling upon URI President Robert Carothers, who has already informed the Senate that it could not compel student speech, to reverse the decision […]

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  • University of Rhode Island President Forbids Student Senate from Imposing Unconstitutional Sanctions

    April 12, 2007

    The University of Rhode Island (URI) Student Senate has been looking for a way to punish the College Republicans for months. In November, the College Republicans advertised a satirical “White, Heterosexual, American Male” (WHAM) scholarship, and wanted to award $100 to anyone fitting those criteria who submitted an application and an essay on the adversities he’s faced because of his race, sexuality, nationality, and gender. The point was obviously to highlight and criticize scholarships awarded on the basis of these categories. Over 40 URI students applied, many writing equally satirical application essays.   On February 19, the Student Senate’s Student […]

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  • University of Rhode Island President Forbids Student Senate from Imposing Unconstitutional Sanctions

    April 12, 2007

    University of Rhode Island (URI) President Robert Carothers has intervened to stop the Student Senate from imposing unconstitutional sanctions on the URI College Republicans, who sponsored a satirical $100 “scholarship” for white, heterosexual, American males. The Senate prohibited the group from disbursing the money, but the Senate later demanded that the College Republicans apologize publicly in the student newspaper for even advertising the scholarship. FIRE wrote to the Student Senate to explain that the First Amendment prohibits any organization that derives its authority from a public university from compelling students to make statements against their will. When the Student Senate […]

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  • Police State U

    October 18, 2005

    Check out “Keeping a Close Watch on Students” on Inside Higher Ed. It tells only the latest story of universities’ encroachment into students’ lives, this time at the University of Rhode Island: About 150 students rallied Monday in protest of university policy changes that will allow students who live off-campus—as a majority do—to be referred to the university judicial system for things that happen outside campus borders. This is not new. I have received reports of universities with ever more invasive polices for years and, as the article notes, “Rhode Island officials noted that most of the university’s peer institutions […]

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