Dartmouth College: Abolition of Speech Code

Category: Free Speech
Schools: Dartmouth College

A set of statements published on Dartmouth’s website, in the wake of a controversy regarding a fraternity at the college, sparked confusion over Dartmouth’s commitment to free speech. The statements appeared to contradict Dartmouth’s reverence for free speech and expression. After FIRE expressed its concern over the potential speech code, the statements where removed from Dartmouth’s website and the school affirmed its commitment to free speech.

  • Lighting the FIRE of Liberty in Philadelphia

    January 25, 2006

    The seeds of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) sprouted at Penn over a decade ago. Late one night in 1993, in response to the loud singing and stomping of a group of African-American sorority girls, Penn student Eden Jacobowitz yelled, from the window of his dorm room, “Shut up, you water buffalo. If you want a party, there’s a zoo a mile from here.” For his “water buffalo” comment—a translation of a Yiddish term for rude people—Penn unjustly charged Jacobowitz with violating its racial harassment policy. Professor Alan Charles Kors, along with other members of the faculty, […]

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  • Dartmouth Shifts—to the Right?

    June 28, 2005

    Last month, in an election to choose their representatives to Dartmouth College’s Board of Trustees, alumni bypassed four candidates nominated formally by the institution and chose instead two men who had criticized college policies that they believed restricted free speech, damaged fraternities and sororities, and diminished athletics programs. Just days before the election results were announced, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education said that the college had clarified its policies in a way that made it “a national leader in the battle for free expression on campus.” And last week, Dartmouth’s board ended a six-year-old moratorium barring the establishment […]

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  • 10 great cigars and why I smoked them

    June 13, 2005

    By Mike Adams at Townhall.com For years, communism has been preventing me from enjoying a lot of good cigars. That used to bother me, until I found a way around the problem. As many of my readers know, there are more communists teaching on the average American campus than there are teaching in all of Cuba. And, of course, these communist professors do a lot of stupid things, most of which violate the United States Constitution. I have learned that fighting American communist professors is fun, largely because they are so easy to beat when challenged. That’s why I smoke […]

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  • Dartmouth Praised for Taking Lead in ‘Free Expression’

    May 16, 2005

    Dartmouth College in New Hampshire is being lauded for leading the Ivy League “in respecting individual liberty and free expression.” Dartmouth no longer has a poor free-speech rating from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). The school had been under scrutiny for de-recognizing a fraternity for publishing an internal newsletter that insulted two female students. Following the incident, Dartmouth posted two letters on its website — one from the college president and one from the dean — justifying the punishment. But after being contacted by FIRE, the college removed those letters from the website. FIRE president David French […]

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  • The Lone Pine Revolution

    May 14, 2005

    Two bespectacled, suit-wearing academics make for unlikely revolutionaries. However, the election of Hoover Institution fellow Peter Robinson ’79 and George Mason University law professor Todd Zywicki ’88 to Dartmouth College’s Board of Trustees, announced Thursday, is perhaps the most significant event in the institution’s recent history. Most Trustee elections at Dartmouth, like those to most corporate boards, are low-key affairs, marked by apathy. But not this one. Just to earn a place on the Trustee election ballot, Robinson and Zywicki each had to collect 500 alumni signatures on a petition. They next fought back a spirited opposition from the four […]

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  • Red Light, Green* Light

    May 13, 2005

    In what the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has called “a remarkable development for liberty on campus,” Dartmouth has cleared up the mystery surrounding the College’s speech code. General Counsel Robert Donin, in a May 2 communiqué (see inset), wrote to FIRE to “confirm that neither President James Wright’s May 10, 2001 letter nor Dean of the College James Larimore’s May 11, 2001 letter represents a binding statement of Dartmouth College policy or can be relied upon to support a complaint based on the content or viewpoint of controversial speech” [emphasis added]. The letters in question were authored […]

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  • Dartmouth trustee vote raises controversy

    May 13, 2005

    While Penn prepares to graduate a new class, alumni of Dartmouth College hope to finally see the end of a controversy over trustee elections. Unlike at Penn — where all new trustees are selected by the current board — Dartmouth alumni vote directly to elect seven of the 17 members of the Board of Trustees. With two such seats up for grabs this year, campaigning and politicking have reached unprecedented levels in Hanover, N.H. Much of the intensity stems from the fact that although Dartmouth’s Alumni Council, a group mostly made up of class- and alumni-group leaders, originally nominated four […]

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  • Free speech org. lauds College policies

    May 10, 2005

    David French, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, said yesterday that the organization would improve Dartmouth’s free speech rating from a poor “red light” to the highest rating, a “green light.” FIRE, a self-declared watchdog group that rates and advocates for free speech on campus, accords its highest ranking to 25 to 30 percent of colleges and universities nationwide, according to French. Dartmouth will join the University of Pennsylvania as the second Ivy League school with a green light rating. The higher rating results from a number of efforts on the College’s part to support free speech […]

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  • Freer Speech at Dartmouth?

    May 10, 2005

    Can speech that hurts feelings get you in trouble at Dartmouth College? That’s what libertarian critics of the college have been charging for some time, saying that the college has a speech code that squelches free expression. Dartmouth has said that its policies have been distorted. But this month, the college clarified its stance and at least some of its critics now say that the college no longer has policies that inhibit free speech on the campus. The clarification comes as the college is counting the votes in a trustee election in which the college’s speech policies were a major […]

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  • Voting in action-packed trustee election ends

    May 6, 2005

    Voting for this year’s trustee election wraps up midnight on Friday after one of the most controversial and heated races in recent memory. While most trustee elections in the College’s history have passed uneventfully, this year’s has raised questions of campaign rules violations, the legitimacy of petition candidates and free speech on campus — all while drawing national attention. The Candidates In light of the Board of Trustees’ ongoing expansion from 16 to 22 members, two positions opened this year for which the College’s 62,000 living alumni can vote. Six candidates are vying for these two spots — four nominated […]

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  • Trustee Election at Dartmouth Is Seen as ‘Battle for Academic Freedom’

    May 5, 2005

    Elections of trustees to college and university boards are generally a snooze. Not so at Dartmouth College, where an alumni vote for two slots on the Board of Trustees has featured as much drama as a mudslinging congressional campaign. The results of the election will be released in the next few weeks. Dartmouth alumni choose seven members of the college’s 17-trustee board. With two seats open this year, the Alumni Council, a body composed mostly of class and alumni-group leaders, selected a slate of four candidates for the election. However, two dark-horse candidates have mounted successful petition campaigns to get […]

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  • Ivies confront free speech uproar

    April 7, 2005

    President James Wright signed a letter last week encouraging colleges and universities to become involved in the Ford Foundation’s new program encouraging academic freedom, entitled “Difficult Dialogues: Promoting Pluralism and Academic Freedom on Campus.” The College, however, is still rated poorly in terms of freedom of speech, according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE, an organization that champions free speech on university campuses. The Ford Foundation program, according to the foundation’s website, “will support the development of rigorous academic programs that engage students in constructive dialogue around difficult political, religious, racial and cultural issues.” The program […]

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  • Free Speech and Its Limits

    March 18, 2005

    Richard Roberts (“Free Speech and Inconsistency,” April 14) glosses over the facts of the Zeta Psi case to create the false impression that the College sanctioned the fraternity for the content of its ideas. In his recent speech to the Dartmouth Club of New York, President Wright stated why the fraternity was sanctioned: “The Dean derecognized the fraternity because of the repeated publication of a newsletter that cruelly demeaned specific women on campus. This incident was about behavior, not speech — the organization published articles describing the supposed sexual exploits of two undergraduate women who were identified by name.” To […]

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  • Encouraged But Not Convinced

    March 7, 2005

    As part of the electioneering surrounding the current Trustee election, my views on free speech at Dartmouth have been quoted to support certain candidates and attack others. Politics aside, since one of the two promises I made during the 2004 Trustee election was to improve the climate of free speech on campus, I am very sensitive to that issue — especially when my position is misrepresented. To be clear: I believe there has been and continues to be a serious free speech problem at Dartmouth. It is true that I have praised President Wright for his convocation speech on Sept. […]

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  • Playing with FIRE

    June 2, 2003

    When a college student’s speech offends the sensibilities of his school’s administration, the means of recourse are few. The case is easily hushed up by the campus PC police and the student is left to fend for himself amidst the stifling academic orthodoxy. To whom can the beleaguered student cry out for help? The resources normally called upon for aid in times of duress—parents, professors, administrators, or campus publications—are irrelevant or useless. They are either powerless to stop the persecution or quick to jump on the student for promulgating ‘distasteful’ speech. But, since its inception four years ago, the Philadelphia-based […]

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  • Law Prof: Bureaucracy Hinders Freedom of Speech

    February 6, 2015

    George Mason University (GMU) School of Law professor Todd Zywicki knows from personal experience that persuading an institution to revise its unconstitutional speech codes is not always an easy task. Zywicki shared some of what he’s learned from his advocacy over the years in a post on The John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy’s blog on Wednesday. Zywicki notes that although recent trends might lead readers to believe that campus censorship is imposed by politically motivated professors, its origins often lie elsewhere—in harder-to-reach places. For example, at GMU, he writes: There is a separate office for that, called […]

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  • Dartmouth’s Speech Codes: FIRE Responds to Challenge

    April 30, 2009

    Yesterday, in his blog entry discussing the difficult road facing petition candidates for governing board positions at Harvard University and Dartmouth College—and the substantial hostility they face if elected—Kyle provided an excellent overview of the independent campaign, tenure, and eventual dismissal of former Dartmouth Trustee Todd Zywicki. As Kyle usefully recounts, Zywicki, a professor of law at George Mason University School of Law, was elected to Dartmouth’s Board of Trustees in 2005 as a petition candidate after running on a free speech platform. Once elected, Zywicki and his fellow elected petition candidates followed through on their campaign promises by leading […]

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  • Dartmouth Ends Confusion Over Speech Policies, Affirms Commitment to Free Speech, and Removes Troubling Documents From Website

    May 9, 2005

    HANOVER, N.H., May 9, 2005—In a remarkable development for liberty on campus, Dartmouth College has issued a clear and unambiguous statement in favor of free speech. The statement ends what Dartmouth called “confusion” about the college’s policies by removing from its website documents containing language that earned the college a poor, “red” rating on the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s (FIRE’s) speechcodes.org database. This action follows a series of communications between FIRE and Dartmouth. “FIRE no longer considers Dartmouth to have a speech code. Moreover, Dartmouth is clearly positioning itself as a national leader in the battle for free […]

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