Amherst College

Location: Amherst, Massachusetts
Type: Private
Federal Circuit: 1st Circuit

Speech Code Rating

Amherst College 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.

This school does not have any cases at this time.
Yellow Light Policies
  • Student Handbook: Amherst College Honor Code- Statement on Respect for Persons 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Policies on Tolerance, Respect, and Civility
    Last updated: December 12, 2014

    Respect for the rights, dignity and integrity of others is essential for the well-being of a community. Actions by any persons which do not reflect such respect for others are damaging to each member of the community and hence damaging to Amherst College. Each member of the community should be free from interference, discrimination, intimidation, sexual harassment, or disparagement in the classroom, the social, recreational, and residential environment or the work place. Any behavior which constitutes sexual harassment or other verbal or physical abuse of any member of the community for reasons that include but are not limited to race, color, religion, national origin, ethnic identification, age, political affiliation or belief, sexual orientation, gender, economic status, or physical or mental disability, will be regarded as a serious violation of the Honor Code, and anyone found guilty of such behavior will be disciplined.

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  • Amherst College Sexual Misconduct Policy 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: December 12, 2014

    Sexual harassment is any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favors, or other unwelcome verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when: … Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work or academic performance by creating an intimidating, hostile, humiliating, demeaning, or sexually offensive working, academic or social environment. The effect will be evaluated based on the perspective of a reasonable person in the position of a Complainant.

    Examples of behavior that might be considered misconduct include, but are not limited to: * Unwanted or inappropriate sexual innuendo, propositions, sexual attention or suggestive comments and gestures; humor and jokes about sex or gender-specific traits; sexual slurs or derogatory language directed at another person’s sexuality or gender; insults and threats based on sex or gender; and other oral, written or electronic communications of a sexual nature that an individual communicates is unwanted and unwelcome; … Non-academic display or circulation of written materials or pictures degrading to an individual(s) or gender group (It is expected that instructors will offer appropriate warning regarding the introduction of explicit and triggering materials used in the classroom.); … *Demeaning verbal or other expressive behavior of a sexual or gendered nature in instructional settings; and Acts of verbal, nonverbal, or physical aggression, intimidation, or hostility based on sex or sex-stereotyping. Harassment for exhibiting what is perceived as a stereotypical characteristic for one’s sex, or for failing to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity and femininity, regardless of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity of the harasser or target.

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  • Student Handbook: Examples of Violations to the Honor Code 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies
    Last updated: December 12, 2014

    Theft or other abuse of computer time, including but not limited to: … Use of computing facilities to send obscene or abusive messages.

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  • Sexual Respect and Title IX: Sexual Misconduct and Harassment Information 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: December 15, 2013

    Under this policy, sexual harassment includes but is not limited to sexual assault, sexual exploitation, stalking, cyber-stalking, bullying and cyber-bullying, aiding or facilitating the commission of a violation, and retaliation.

    Consistent with the values of an educational and employment environment free from harassment based on sex, the College also prohibits gender-based harassment, which may include acts of verbal, nonverbal, or physical aggression, intimidation, or hostility based on sex or sex-stereotyping, even if those acts do not involve conduct of a sexual nature.

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Green Light Policies
  • Student Handbook: Amherst College Honor Code- Statement of Student Rights 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression
    Last updated: December 12, 2014

    Subject to respect for the rights of others, every student enjoys the assurance of the full exercise of those rights expressed in the Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities and the preceding three Statements, including but not limited to the following specific rights:

    The right to engage in the free exchange of ideas.

    The right to protest and to dissent in a peaceable manner and to join with others in other non-violent forms of common action.

    The right to complain of injustice and to bring grievances to the appropriate offices of the College without fear of retaliation.

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  • Student Handbook: Amherst College Honor Code- Statement of Freedom of Expression and Dissent 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression
    Last updated: December 12, 2014

    Amherst College prizes and defends freedom of speech and dissent. It affirms the right of teachers and students to teach and learn, free from coercive force and intimidation and subject only to the constraints of reasoned discourse and peaceful conduct. It also recognizes that such freedoms and rights entail responsibility for one’s actions. Thus, every student bears the responsibility to protect the rights of all to express their views so long as there is neither use nor threat of force nor interference with the rights of others. Demonstrated cases of disruption of classes (whether, for example, by the abridgement of free expression in a class or by obstructing access to the place in which the class normally meets) or similarly of other academic activities will be regarded as serious breaches of this Statement and community standards and will receive appropriate sanctions.

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  • Amherst’s Response to a Rape Lawsuit is Stunning

    July 23, 2015

    By Blake Neff at The Daily Caller Amherst College, battling a lawsuit from a student who claims he was wrongly expelled after a bogus sexual assault allegation, has fired back with its counter-argument: It doesn’t matter whether a student produces exculpatory evidence, if that evidence doesn’t emerge during an extremely narrow appeals period. “John Doe” filed his lawsuit in May, saying he was booted out of Amherst following a “grossly inadequate investigation” by the school into rape claims made by fellow student Sandra Jones. One of the only facts not in dispute is that in February 2012, Doe and Jones […]

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  • Big mandate on campus

    September 17, 2002

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  • Amherst: We Don’t Need to Consider Exculpatory Evidence Discovered After Appeal Period Closed

    July 22, 2015

    In response to a complaint filed in federal court this past May, Amherst College filed a response on Monday staunchly defending its expulsion of a student for sexual misconduct as well as its subsequent refusal to consider new evidence in the case. The case, Doe v. Amherst College, stems from a sexual encounter between two Amherst students that took place in February 2012, about which the female student filed a sexual misconduct complaint in October 2013. The accuser claimed that while the encounter was initially consensual, she withdrew her consent while performing oral sex on the accused—her roommate’s boyfriend—at which […]

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  • Amherst College Settles with Student Who Sued Over Withheld Diploma

    January 26, 2015

    Amherst College has settled a lawsuit brought last June by a student identified only as John Doe. Doe filed the lawsuit after the college withheld his diploma because of a sexual assault allegation from 2009 that had long since been resolved—or so he thought. After the allegations arose initially, Doe was placed on medical leave for a year and required to see a psychiatrist before petitioning for readmission. After successfully completing the college’s requirements, Doe was readmitted and continued his studies without incident. Just before graduation, however, in the midst of intense scrutiny by the public and the U.S. Department […]

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  • Students Return to Campus Censorship, But Fight Back with FIRE

    September 2, 2014

    PHILADELPHIA, September 2, 2014—As millions of college students arrive on campus this fall—many for the first time—few of them realize that nearly 59 percent of our nation’s colleges maintain policies that clearly and substantially restrict speech protected by the First Amendment. Too many students will realize that the rights they took for granted as Americans have been denied to them only after they face charges and disciplinary action for speaking their minds. But this year, campus censorship faces a new deterrent: FIRE’s Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project, which aims to finally bring an end to unconstitutional and illiberal speech […]

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  • Boston’s WGBH Announces Muzzle Award ‘Winners’

    July 9, 2014

    Boston’s WGBH News has just announced the “winners” of its 2014 Muzzle Awards, given to those who have particularly impeded freedom of speech over the past year. Formerly published in the Boston Phoenix, WGBH has adopted the awards and is continuing the tradition of “singl[ing] out the dramatic and the petty, the epic and the absurd.”

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  • Amherst Bans Fraternities, Sororities, and Similar Organizations On and Off Campus

    May 9, 2014

    Amherst College’s Board of Trustees sent out an email Tuesday announcing that it was reaffirming its 1984 ban on the college’s recognition of fraternities and sororities—and that it would be taking things a step further this summer in a move that will take a significant bite out of Amherst students’ ability to freely associate.

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  • The State of Free Speech on Campus: Amherst College

    January 8, 2013

    This winter, FIRE is presenting a blog series on the state of free speech at America’s top 10 liberal arts colleges, as ranked by U.S. News & World Report (a list that actually includes 11 schools, since two—Claremont McKenna College and Vassar College—are tied for the #10 spot). Before the new year, we told you about speech codes at Williams College. Today, we kick off 2013 with a discussion of the state of free speech at Amherst College in Massachusetts. Like Williams, Amherst receives a “yellow light” rating from FIRE, because several of its policies could too easily be abused […]

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  • Misunderstanding ‘Harassment’

    October 16, 2012

    Last week, FIRE kicked off a blog series about how schools can reform problematic speech codes with a discussion of why mandating “civility” is inconsistent with students’ right to free speech. This week, we are tackling another trouble spot for free speech: the harassment policy.  As an initial matter, campus harassment policies can be divided into two categories: policies prohibiting discriminatory harassment (including sexual harassment) and policies prohibiting general harassment (including threats and stalking). It will be most useful to discuss these categories separately.  Discriminatory Harassment   Federal anti-discrimination law requires colleges and universities receiving federal funding (which is virtually all […]

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  • Jewish Group at Amherst College Receives Funding After AAS Senate Debate, but Concerns Remain about Senate Funding Policies

    February 25, 2011

    According to a column by Romen Borsellino in The Amherst Student, the Association of Amherst Students (AAS) Senate at Amherst College, of which Borsellingo is a member, debated during a meeting on February 14 whether a new Jewish student organization, the Jew Crew, should receive funding for an event. Detractors claimed that the Jew Crew was too similar to the existing Jewish student organization on campus, Hillel, while supporters noted that the two served different purposes. Eventually, the AAS Senate reached an almost unanimous decision to fund the event. While this is good news for the Jew Crew, the broader implications […]

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