Amherst College

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

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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.

At present, FIRE has not been involved in any cases at this school.
Yellow Light Policies
  • Community Standards: Chapter I. College Standards- Section 1. Amherst College Honor Code, Statement on Respect for Persons

    Speech Code Category: Policies on Tolerance, Respect, and Civility
    Last updated: January 3, 2019

    Respect for the rights, dignity and integrity of others is essential for the well-being of a community. Actions by any persons that 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 workplace. 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, gender identity, gender expression, economic status or physical or mental disability will be regarded as a serious violation of the Honor Code, and anyone found responsible for such behavior will be sanctioned (please see also Section 3, College Sexual Misconduct Policy; Section 13, The Sexual Misconduct Adjudication Process; and Section 17, Consensual Sexual Relationships Between Faculty Members and Students).

    » Read More

  • Community Standards: Chapter I. College Standards- Section 3. College Sexual Misconduct Policy

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: January 3, 2019

    Sexual misconduct is a broad term that includes, but is not limited to, sexual harassment, sexual violence, domestic and dating violence, sexual exploitation, stalking, and 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 gender or gender-stereotyping, even if those acts do not involve conduct of a sexual nature.

    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 Written graffiti or the display or distribution of sexually explicit drawings, pictures or written materials; sexually charged name-calling; sexual rumors or ratings of sexual activity/performance; the circulation, display or creation of emails or websites of a sexual nature Non-academic display or circulation of written materials or pictures degrading to one or more individuals or gender group Inappropriate or unwelcome physical contact or suggestive body language, such as touching, patting, pinching, hugging, kissing or brushing against an individual’s body Undue and unwanted attention, such as repeated inappropriate flirting, inappropriate or repetitive compliments about clothing or physical attributes, staring, or making sexually oriented gestures 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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  • Community Standards: Chapter I. College Standards- Section 2. Examples of Violations to the Student Code of Conduct

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: January 3, 2019

    2.1. Harm to Persons

    2.1.1. Intentionally or recklessly causing physical or emotional harm or endangering the well-being, health, or safety of any person.
    2.1.2. Any action that threatens physical or emotional harm or endangers the well-being, health, or safety of any person.
    2.1.3. Any physical or verbal threats against any person.
    2.1.4. Any harassment, bullying, or intimidation of any person.
    2.1.5. Conduct or a pattern of conduct—not of a sex-based, gender-based, or sexual nature—(including without limitation physical, verbal, graphic, written, or electronic) which places any person in reasonable fear of physical harm or which harasses, bullies, or intimidates any person. For conduct of a sex-based, gender-based, or sexual nature, see Section 3.

    2.2. Bias-Based Interference with Educational or Employment Opportunities

    Conduct that is directed at an individual or group of individuals on the basis of their actual or perceived race, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, sex or gender (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender expression, and gender identity), age, disability, genetic information, military service or any other characteristic or class protected under applicable federal, state or local law that causes an interference with the affected person or group’s educational or employment opportunities (see Section 1.2, Statement on Respect for Persons).

    2.9. Use of Computers and Networks

    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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  • Community Standards: Chapter III. Select College Policies- Section 25. Posting Policy

    Speech Code Category: Posting and Distribution Policies
    Last updated: January 3, 2019

    Posting – for purposes of this policy, a “posting” includes all methods of mass-distributing information in physical or hardcopy form, including, but not limited to, posters, fliers, table tents, signs, banners, chalked messages, lawn displays, and any other methods that the college determines are subject to this policy.

    Only Amherst College students and student groups, excluding unrecognized student organizations, are permitted to post on campus without advance permission.

    The name and Amherst College email address for each individual responsible for the posting must be included on the posting.

    » Read More

Green Light Policies
  • Community Standards: Chapter I. College Standards- Section 1. Amherst College Honor Code, Statement of Student Rights

    Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression
    Last updated: January 3, 2019

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

    1.4.1. The right to engage in the free exchange of ideas.

    1.4.2. The right to protest and to dissent in a peaceable manner and to join with others in other nonviolent forms of common action.

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

    » Read More

  • Community Standards: Chapter I. College Standards- Section 1. Amherst College Honor Code, Statement of Freedom of Expression and Dissent

    Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression
    Last updated: January 3, 2019

    Amherst 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 abridgment 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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  • Making Exclusive Clubs More Inclusive

    May 24, 2016

    By Jake New at Inside Higher Ed Looking to end “a system of privilege and oppression,” Northwestern University announced last week that most student groups on campus must begin admitting any interested students by next year or they will lose university funding. That could mean groups like the campus food magazine Spoon University and the student-run marketing firm Form & Function Marketing, which have in the past been selective, would have to take all who want to join… Read more here.

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  • Due Process on Campus ‘Will Get Worse Before it Gets Better,’ Cardozo Law Students Told

    April 1, 2016

    By Micah Fleck at The College Fix NEW YORK – What if due process of law as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution ceased to exist the moment that students stepped foot on college campuses?… Read more here.

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  • CLAIM: Student Accused of Rape Told Not to Seek Counseling Because His Accuser had Priority

    January 14, 2016

    By Matt Lamb at The College Fix A self-proclaimed feminist student at Michigan State University is blasting the administration for expelling her romantic partner after a 14-month discriminatory sexual-assault investigation. … Read more here.

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  • The ‘Heckler’s Veto’ on America’s University and College Campuses

    November 30, 2015

    By Allan C. Brownfeld at Communities Digital News WASHINGTON, Nov. 30, 2015 – Free speech used to be highly valued, particularly on the nation’s college and university campuses. Academic freedom demanded a respect for a diversity of views. During the Vietnam War years, this writer taught at the University of Maryland. The campus was alive with debates about the war and a host of other subjects. There was no effort to silence diverse points of view. Earlier, at the College of William and Mary and its law school, the notion that certain ideas could not be expressed because someone might be […]

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  • To Learn or Not to Learn

    November 27, 2015

    By Dave Trecker at Naples News Some thoughtful people are asking a thoughtful question, one perhaps long overdue: What is the real purpose of higher education? Is it to learn the basics of math, writing, literature, science, history? To learn to think and reason? To prepare for employment? Or is it to try to change the world — whether you can spell or not? Is it to force changes on universities terrified of offending liberal students who may or may not be able to write a coherent paragraph or balance their checkbooks? Or is it to do both, if you […]

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  • Alabama’s Colleges, Universities Must Defend Free Speech

    November 18, 2015

    By J. Pepper Bryars at Alabama Media Group The uneducated comments coming from higher education these days are startling. Over at the University of Missouri, a student body representative recently said she’s “tired of hearing that First Amendment rights protect students” who engage in speech she deems hostile. Up at Amherst College in Massachusetts, students are demanding the school issue a statement saying it does “not tolerate the actions of students who posted … the ‘Free Speech’ posters.” And here in the South, students at Vanderbilt University are protesting a professor who once wrote that Islam was “dangerous” and that […]

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  • College Students Want to Make Everything Free Except Their Minds

    November 13, 2015

    By Robby Soave at At least it’s not just about offensive Halloween costumes, anymore: Students across the country engaged in protests Thursday and Friday as part of the Million Student March for debt forgiveness, free college, and a $15 minimum wage. I have serious reservations about these goals—a higher minimum wage would cripple the opportunities of young people, debt forgiveness would punish taxpayers for the crimes of the privileged, and free college just isn’t very usefulfor poor people. What’s more, students can’t articulate a way to pay for them, as evidenced by this painful exchange between an organizer and […]

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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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  • Due Process Legal Update: Part II

    March 29, 2017

    Recently, I wrote an update on two of the most recent decisions in the spate of lawsuits brought by students accused of sexual misconduct who allege they were denied basic fairness in campus proceedings. More than 150 such suits have been filed since 2011, with at least eight filed in the last two months alone. Today I’m going to highlight two more recent rulings that illustrate how malleable and susceptible to varying interpretations the law in this area is, leading to a mixed bag of results for plaintiffs. Some judges are deeply reluctant to interfere in universities’ internal disciplinary systems […]

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  • Amid Campus Protests, University Presidents Push Dialogue and Engagement

    November 18, 2015

    University of Maryland (UMD) President Wallace D. Loh wrote an interesting and thoughtful opinion piece this week for TIME’s Ideas blog. It addressed how a university administrator and the larger campus community can respond to campus protests against racial injustice while upholding free speech protections for unpopular speech. He emphasized that both are important components of a rich academic marketplace of ideas.   To illustrate his points, Loh recalled an incident that occurred at UMD earlier this year and unearthed many of the same tensions that a number of American campuses have been experiencing in recent weeks. In the spring of […]

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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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