West Virginia University

Location: Morgantown, West Virginia
Website: http://www.wvu.edu
Type: Public
Federal Circuit: 4th Circuit

Speech Code Rating

West Virginia 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.

  • West Virginia University: Limit on Speech to Campus “Free Speech Zones”

    February 11, 2002

    West Virginia University (WVU) has abandoned a notorious and chilling policy that quarantined free expression to two small areas of campus. FIRE first learned of WVU’s censorship zones from two WVU students, Michael Bomford and Matthew Poe, in November 2001. The students, who founded the West Virginia University Free Speech Consortium, have publicly criticized the policy since late 2000, when campus police first prohibited the distribution of protest literature. The campus police cited WVU’s policy, which identified only "two designated areas for free speech and assembly"- outlawing these rights on ninety-nine percent of the campus. FIRE wrote WVU President David […]

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Red Light Policies

  • Eyes and ‘Eers: Sexual Offenses 12-13

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies, Statement

    based gestures and non-consensual sexually
    based communication, whether communicated
    in writing, orally, electronically (e.g., Facebook,
    text messaging, e-mail, etc.), are also prohibited.
    Violations of this policy typically result in removal
    from University Housing and are referred to the
    West Virginia University Student Conduct Office
    for disciplinary action.

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Yellow Light Policies
  • Electronic Mail Policy 12-13

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies, Statement

    University electronic mail services may not be used for: ... advancement of political agenda.

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  • University Student Conduct Code 12-13

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies, Statement

    Physical abuse, verbal abuse, threats, intimidation, coercion and/or other conduct which threatens or endangers the health or safety of any person. Engaging in harassment or repeated unwanted contact, rising to the level of illegal harassment, including, but not limited to, stalking.

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  • Mountaineer Creed 12-13

    Speech Code Category: Policies Restricting Freedom of Conscience, Statement

    As a Mountaineer, I Will:

    * practice academic and personal integrity
    * value wisdom and culture
    * foster lifetime learning
    * practice civic responsibility and good stewardship
    * respect human dignity and cultural diversity ... In order to become a meaningful member of West
    Virginia University and the society in which I live,
    I dedicate my energy, my talents, and my intellect to
    these standards of excellence.

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  • Strategic Plan for Achieving Social Justice 12-13

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

    West Virginia University will be known for honoring the worth of every individual and sustaining an environment where all people are encouraged to achieve their full potential. This vision encompasses the following:
    * Students will be prepared with the principles of social justice competencies in order to function effectively in the global workplace;
    * Faculty and staff will exemplify principles of social justice in fulfilling their responsibilities;
    Complaints of illegal discrimination, harassment, and abuses of social justice principles will be addressed in an objective and timely manner...

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  • University Student Conduct Code 12-13

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies, Statement

    Use of computing facilities to send obscene or abusive messages.

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  • Eyes and ‘Eers: Harassment/Threats/Physical Assault or Abuse 12-13

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies, Statement

    Conduct that intimidates, threatens, or endangers
    the health or safety of any person is not permitted
    whether communicated in writing, orally,
    electronically (e.g., Facebook, text messaging,
    e-mail, etc.), etc. This includes but is not limited to:

    * Behavior that intentionally or recklessly causes
    physical, financial, or emotional harm to any
    person including intimidating behavior and
    behaviors that are deliberately intended to cause emotional distress to a group or person;
    * Intimidating, threatening, or other endangering behavior against a person or persons because of race, sex, age, disability, veteran status, religion, sexual orientation, color, or national origin; and
    * Behavior that is construed as a nuisance, including prank phone calls, and thereby disrupts the residence hall community.

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Green Light Policies
  • Freedom of Expression and Use of Facilities Policy 12-13

    Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression, Statement

    [T]he West Virginia University Board of Governors recognizes the
    right of individuals to pursue their constitutional right of free speech and
    assembly, and welcomes open dialogue as an opportunity to expand the
    educational opportunities of our campus communities.

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  • Policy Regarding Sexual Misconduct 12-13

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies, Statement

    "Sexual harassment" means unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or
    other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature on or off campus that is sufficiently
    severe or pervasive when (i) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or
    implicitly a condition of an individual’s employment or academic performance or
    participation in University programs or activities; or (ii) submission to or rejection of
    such conduct is used as the basis for employment decisions or for academic evaluation,
    grades, or advancement; or (iii) such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably
    interfering with an individual’s educational experience, work or academic performance,
    or creates an educational experience or academic or work environment that a reasonable
    person would find intimidating or hostile.

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  • University Student Conduct Code 12-13

    Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression, Statement

    All students at West Virginia University are citizens of the larger community, and as such are free to exercise their fundamental and constitutional rights.

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  • Education quality more important than marketing

    May 18, 2007

    When faculty and the Board of Governors sparred recently over the appointment of Morgantown lawyer Mike Garrison as president of West Virginia University, many saw it as a fight for the guiding principles of the school. At stake is whether WVU will act as a corporation or an educational institution. During David Hardesty’s 12-year reign, WVU operated as a corporation, overly concerned with marketing, brand management and increasing cash flow. Many, including the faculty, argue the school has lost sight of its founding principles to serve the educational needs of West Virginians. As a WVU alumna who has experienced Hardesty’s […]

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  • Foundation claims WVU violates students’ speech rights

    February 23, 2007

    West Virginia University is violating students’ First Amendment rights, according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). The “red light” ranking by FIRE means that the rights of students protected by the First Amendment are being violated on campus. The survey was done on over 334 institutions across the country and an overwhelming 229 colleges and universities were red-lighted, including WVU. An additional 91 were yellow-lighted, meaning they had minor infractions, and only eight institutions were green-lighted, meaning they did not violate students’ First Amendment rights. The survey was conducted after FIRE learned about Michigan State University’s policy […]

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  • FIRE Applauds University of Nevada-Reno’s Dropping of ‘Speech Zones’

    July 5, 2006

    by Jim Brown Agape Press The University of Nevada at Reno (UNR) has eliminated so-called “speech zones” that limited student expression on campus. The university’s previous policy had designated only four small or remote areas on its grounds as “public forum” spaces while explicitly deeming the rest of the campus a non-public forum. The new policy adopted by the university, however, allows students to use the entire campus — except for the interior of buildings — to demonstrate, protest, or pass out flyers and newspapers. Student activists working with the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada and the Foundation for […]

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  • UNCG in free speech battle

    December 17, 2005

    Two UNC-Greensboro students face discipline for protesting outside the university’s designated “free speech and assembly areas,” based on a policy that a national civil liberties organization calls unconstitutional. The students, Allison Jaynes and Robert Sinnott, were charged with a “violation of respect” under the student code of conduct at UNC-Greensboro after a Nov. 16 protest attended by about 40 people. The two students face disciplinary action that could range from a warning to a probation with restrictions. The demonstration outside the library by UNCG College Libertarians was aimed specifically at the university’s policy governing the location of protests on campus. […]

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  • Trumping Moses and Matthew

    November 7, 2005

    By Suzanne Fields at Townhall.com What do the Bible and the “The Vagina Monologues” have in common? Not much. But surely we can all agree that both are covered by the First Amendment, guaranteeing freedom of religion and freedom of expression. Well, that’s not so at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. At UWEC you can live in a dorm and watch a performance of “The Vagina Monologues,” but you can’t join a Bible studies group. Any resident assistant, or RA, as the live-in student counselors are called, can put on a performance of the play, and one has, but leading […]

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  • WVU labeled ‘red light’ school over free speech

    September 24, 2005

    MORGANTOWN – Under pressure from a lawsuit and student/faculty protests, West Virginia University abandoned a “free speech zone” policy that limited public debate to certain areas on campus in 2002. But nearly three years later, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) calls the school a “red light” university when it comes to free speech. So why is FIRE putting its brakes on when it comes to WVU? “There are two primary ways in which speech codes violate the First Amendment: One, by being over broad and two, by being vague,” Samantha Harris, a program officer at FIRE said. […]

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  • They also serve who stand and criticize

    July 3, 2005

    QT Weblog of the Week: Taking the Fight to Karl: American Service Men and Women Mad at Karl Rove, takeittokarl .blogspot.com. The weblog was started shortly after Karl Rove, who didn’t find the time to serve in the military during Vietnam, said liberals “wanted to offer therapy and understanding” to the 9/11 terrorists and that criticism of Iraq policy is “certainly putting our troops in greater danger.” It is a good place to remember that there are many liberals among those coming home in flag-covered coffins from and . Or does Rove not support these troops? It’s a dirty job […]

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  • Consulting All Sides on “Speech Codes”

    May 1, 2005

    By David T. Beito, Ralph E. Luker, and Robert David Johnson, Organization of American Historians Newsletter Few controversies have polarized higher education more than that of Ward Churchill at the University of Colorado (CU). Many conservatives, including Governor Bill Owens of Colorado and Newt Gingrich, have demanded that Churchill be dismissed for characterizing the victims of 9/11 as “Little Eichmanns.” Professors and students at CU and elsewhere have responded with rallies and petitions to defend Churchill’s academic freedom. They emphasize that the health of the academy rests on the toleration of controversial, even repellant, ideas. Joining in, the faculty of […]

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  • A space for speech

    April 28, 2003

    By Sarah Muench, Web Devil (Arizona State University)

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  • Issues of free speech confronted at colleges

    April 17, 2003

    The Water Buffalo incident may be 10 years in the past, but the future of free speech remains hazy at colleges and universities from coast to coast. Penn’s own speech code was called into question in the spring of 1993, when then-College freshman Eden Jacobowitz was charged with racial harassment for shouting, “Shut up, you water buffalo,” at 15 black sorority sisters dancing under his high rise window in the wee hours of the morning. The right not to be offended and the right to freedom of expression apparently continue to do battle in almost every state in the union. […]

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  • Lawsuits, debate intensify over university ‘free speech zones’

    October 1, 2002

    The battle over controversial “free speech zones” on public university campuses continues to gather momentum as the lawsuits against the widely used zones multiply across the nation.   Several universities from Florida to Texas have encountered legal trouble as student groups, joined by national rights advocation organizations, claim that limiting demonstration to specific zones infringes on First Amendment rights.   Free speech zones are carefully drawn out areas where students or groups can hold rallies. Depending on the campus, administration allows varying amounts of demonstration outside these areas.   The main argument behind the policy is that noisy protest can […]

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  • College students protest against so-called free speech zones at their campuses, saying that they violate their First Amendment rights

    April 26, 2002

    BOB EDWARDS, host:   Some student activists are finding a large portion of university campuses off-limits to protests. Schools with so-called free speech zones limit the outspoken to just a few places on campus. Administrators say the zones balance free speech and the need for order on campus. But some students at West Virginia University say the zones violate their First Amendment rights. Jeff Young of West Virginia Public Radio reports.   JEFF YOUNG reporting:   West Virginia University student activist Matthew Poe wanted to hand out flyers about corporations and human rights, but Poe instead got a lesson about […]

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  • First Amendment only free speech policy needed

    February 11, 2002

    On Feb. 12, the Students for Economic Justice, in coalition with a variety of groups across the political spectrum, will protest the restriction of free speech at West Virginia University. The purpose of this column is to express support for that protest, and to explain to the University community how free speech is being squelched at WVU.   Free speech being squelched at WVU? What am I talking about? Surely, one might think, everyone acknowledges that free speech is essential to the life of a university. And so one might think that WVU would be committed to the right to […]

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  • Fighting Shadows with FIRE

    January 1, 2000

    According to Dr. Alan Charles Kors, the professor and undergraduate curriculum chair of history who recently co-founded the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), the ultimate aim is to go out of business. “The goal of FIRE,” he says, “is to eradicate itself by ending the abuses of power that now dominate American academic life.” Kors doesn’t see that happening anytime soon, however, which is why he and Boston attorney Harvey Silverglate, his fellow scourge of “mandatory thought-control,” are planning to use FIRE to fight what he calls “the current assault on liberty and dignity on campuses.” Kors is […]

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  • This Month in FIRE History: The End of a Free Speech Zone at West Virginia University

    December 28, 2009

    Seven years ago this month, FIRE won our first victory against a so-called “free speech zone” at West Virginia University. The policy, which quarantined free expression to two small areas of campus, was brought to FIRE’s attention by the leaders of the West Virginia University Free Speech Consortium, Michael Bomford and Matthew Poe. It took many letters, a public exposure campaign, and a lawsuit from the Rutherford Institute for the university to adopt a new policy that declared all of campus a “free speech zone.” Since that time, FIRE has defeated similar free speech zones on campuses across the nation, […]

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  • Free Speech Zones, Past and Present

    July 10, 2007

    In yesterday’s Campus Alert, FIRE’s weekly column in the New York Post, we discussed the disturbing prevalence of free speech zones at America’s public universities. Providing readers with a representative sample of schools that either currently maintain free speech zones or have done so in the past, we wrote: Onerous speech zones have been reported at Clemson University in South Carolina, Western Illinois University, Florida State University, University of Nebraska at Omaha, University of North Carolina-Greensboro, University of Oregon, California State University at Chico, West Virginia University, University of Nevada at Reno, Citrus College in California and the University of […]

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  • WVU Newspaper on Presidential Candidate’s Free Speech Record

    April 10, 2007

    Bravo to The Daily Athenaeum, West Virginia University (WVU)’s student newspaper, whose editorial board voiced its concern over WVU presidential candidate M. Duane Nellis for free speech issues at Kansas State University (KSU), where Nellis currently serves as provost.   In 2005, FIRE joined an amicus brief denouncing the removal of student publications adviser Ronald Johnson after KSU administrators determined that the student newspaper had “quality issues.” Never mind that the paper won the Associated Collegiate Press Pacemaker Award at least once as well as two Columbia Scholastic Press Association Gold Crown awards. Whatever the case, Johnson’s dismissal was widely […]

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  • Emmett Hogan on 2006: The More Things Change…?

    January 5, 2007

    Emmett Hogan is a student at University of Michigan Law School and a luminary early FIRE employee. As we looked back on 2006 in campus rights and abuses I wanted to check in with him for his thoughts on the past year in FIRE history. This was his thoughtful response: One of FIRE’s most gripping cases from 2006 involved a breathtaking exercise in thought reform by Michigan State University. FIRE publicly challenged what MSU calls a “Student Accountability in Community Seminar” (SAC) which is intended to address student behavior that administrators consider unacceptable; the seminar is successful only when it […]

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  • Zoning Out Free Speech at Joliet Junior College

    January 4, 2007

    Last week, the Daily Southtown (Ill.) published an editorial criticizing the trustees of Joliet Junior College for adopting a new free speech zone policy. Although the new policy seems to be improved because it moves these zones closer to where students actually gather, the editorial board rightly questions why the policy wasn’t completely abolished. The editorial correctly notes that “designating a ‘zone’ and setting up rules for how to use it doesn’t encourage free speech, it limits and discourages it.”   Free speech zones are nothing more then a ruse used by college administrators to suppress the free exchange of […]

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  • Students to protest UNCG’s free speech zones

    November 15, 2005

    The two places UNCG has designated free-speech zones do not meet the approval of some student political groups who also object to notifying administrators 48 hours in advance to use the small, overgrown areas. A coalition of activist organizations, from the College Libertarians to the campus International Socialist Organization, plans to protest the school’s policy Wednesday. The College Democrats and Republicans have also joined the cause, which was spearheaded by the Libertarians. Organizers said leaders of the Guilford County Democratic, Republican and Libertarian parties might speak at the event. School policy dictates that protests and student group gatherings occur in […]

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  • The Trouble with Free Speech Zones

    June 24, 2005

    The Daytona Beach News-Journal article that Charles discusses below highlights the controversy over many public universities’ “free speech zone” policies—policies that limit free speech to specific, and often tiny, areas of campus. FIRE President David French is quoted as saying that free speech zone policies are “very common”—“[i]t’s gotten to the point where if I’m looking at a policy and I don’t see free-speech zones, I’m shocked.” Universities often try to justify restrictive free speech zones by arguing that they are “reasonable time, place, and manner” regulations that are permissible under First Amendment law. However, free speech zone policies like […]

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  • Calls for Censorship in Texas

    February 21, 2005

    The Denton, Texas, Record-Chronicle carried a story on Saturday (registration required) about an uproar over a free-expression issue at the University of North Texas. Apparently, the university chapter of the Young Conservatives of Texas (YCT) at UNT held a “Capture an Illegal Immigrant” event to draw attention to what they see as the problem of illegal immigration in Texas (you can read about it in the UNT student paper or read a bunch of articles about it at the UNT YCT website). Basically, YCT had a few students around campus put on orange shirts with the words “Illegal Immigrant” on […]

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  • This Month in FIRE History: FIRE Declares Free Speech Should Not Be Quarantined to Tiny ‘Free Speech Zones’

    February 17, 2005

    Three years ago this month, back when FIRE was in its toddlerhood, we won our very first victory in the battle against so-called Free Speech Zones. These “speech zone” policies restrict free speech and expression to tiny corners of campus and have been identified (and often defeated, thankfully) at dozens of campuses across the country. West Virginia University has the dubious distinction of being our first “speech zone” case. The university’s policy stated: “Due to the limitations of space on the downtown campus, the two designated areas for free speech and assembly will be the amphitheater area of the Mountainlair […]

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  • ACLU Sues U. Maryland Over So-Called ‘Free-Speech’ Zones

    December 19, 2002

    By Sarah Lesher at University Wire

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  • Boxing-in the Bill of Rights

    September 30, 2002

    Fall 2002

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  • FIRE’s Second Letter to President Hardesty

    April 12, 2002

    April 12, 2002 David Hardesty, President West Virginia University Office of the President PO Box 6201 Stewart Hall Morgantown, West Virginia 26506 Dear President Hardesty, We at FIRE were pleased to see that you agreed with our previous letter in which we asked you to liberalize West Virginia University’s (WVU) free speech policy. The ad hoc committee you appointed has come up with a proposal that substantially improves the environment for discourse at WVU. We appreciate the efforts that you and the ad hoc committee have made in the past months and are heartened to see that we are far […]

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  • In the Zone

    March 25, 2002

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  • FIRE’s Letter to WVU’s President Hardesty

    February 11, 2002

    February 11, 2002   David Hardesty President, West Virginia University Office of the President PO Box 6201 Stewart Hall Morgantown, West Virginia 26506   Dear President Hardesty,   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, freedom of religion, academic freedom, due process and-in the case of West Virginia’s University’s “Free Speech Zones” policy-freedom of speech and expression on America’s college campuses. Our web page, www.thefire.org, will give you a greater sense of our identity and activities.   We […]

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