Auburn University

Location: Auburn University, Alabama
Type: Public
Federal Circuit: 11th Circuit

Speech Code Rating

Auburn University 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.

  • Auburn University: Ban on Ron Paul Window Hanging Exposes Double Standard

    November 2, 2011

    In November 2011, Auburn University student Eric Philips was required to remove a banner supporting Ron Paul’s presidential campaign from the inside of his dormitory window. Despite Auburn’s policy prohibiting all window decorations in its residence halls, Philips documented numerous examples of the policy not being enforced against other students. Following a letter from FIRE on December 9, 2011, Auburn responded that it was committed to a “total ban” on this form of student expression. When FIRE presented Auburn with continued photographic evidence of its selective enforcement, however, Auburn then claimed that the policy existed for the “safety, health, and […]

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Yellow Light Policies
  • Speech and Demonstration Policy

    Speech Code Category: Protest and Demonstration Policies
    Last updated: December 17, 2015

    Auburn University reserves the right to require that speakers, scheduled or unscheduled, sponsored or unsponsored, University affiliated or visitors to the campus, use the Open Air Forum (located on the steps of the Ralph Brown Draughon Library) or other approved campus locations if deemed appropriate by the Division of Student Affairs. These areas include Graves Amphitheater, Athletic Department facilities, the Student Activities Center Amphitheater, front lawn of Cater Hall, Student Center Green Space, and other areas designated by the Division of Student Affairs.

    Demonstrations, speeches, and debates are to be held in the Open Air Forum or in the aforementioned alternate locations. These alternate locations require special authorization through the Division of Student Affairs’ Student Center Operations.

    To avoid monopolization by any person, agency, or organization, and to best accommodate all users, permits to schedule the use of the Open Air Forum are available in the Division of Student Affairs’ Student Center Operations Monday – Friday, from 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM. Authorization for any demonstration, speech or debate will require identification of the individual or organization and agreement to abide by this policy. Authorization will not be unreasonably withheld.

    Open Air Forum is a designated area on campus (located on the steps of the Ralph Brown Draughon Library) not confined by walls or a roof. Within this designated area, individuals or groups are encouraged to openly discuss, express, and/or exchange ideas on topics in a civilized manner.

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  • Code of Student Discipline

    Speech Code Category: Other Speech Codes
    Last updated: December 17, 2015

    A student may be referred to the Disciplinary Committee for possible disciplinary action for conduct wherever it occurs: … When the student’s conduct adversely affects the University and/or the pursuit of its mission and objectives.

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  • Title IX Policy and Procedures for Student Sex Discrimination

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: December 17, 2015

    Sexual Harassment is defined as: unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or visual, verbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature when: … 3. Such conduct is so severe and pervasive as to objectively interfere with a student’s educational, living, or work performance or environment.

    While sexual harassment encompasses a wide range of conduct, some examples of specifically prohibited conduct include: … Engaging in unwelcome sexually suggestive conversation ….

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  • Professor Issues Cleverly Sarcastic Trigger Warning: ‘Energy, Stress, Quiz, Grade’

    September 1, 2016

    By Jennifer Kabbany at The College Fix POINTS! to Auburn University engineering Professor Peter Schwartz for his cleverly sarcastic trigger warning atop his syllabus for one of his fall classes… Read more here.

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  • Prof Mocks Activists With Syllabus ‘Trigger Warnings’ For Math, Grades

    September 1, 2016

    By Blake Neff at The Daily Caller  A professor at Auburn University is ridiculing the rising popularity of “trigger warnings” on college campuses by releasing a course syllabus that includes trigger warnings for concepts like math grades. Read more here.

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  • CFACT reverses restrictive speech code at Auburn University!

    March 15, 2016

    By Adam Houser at Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow Student activists of Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama, committed the egregious crime of offering their peers the opportunity to write on their shirts in support of free speech. Students could write anything, and did: “not enough on campus housing,” “diversity,” and “love God,” were just a few of the phrases students wrote while exercising their 1st amendment rights. Read more here.

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  • An Education in College Justice: Under pressure from the Obama administration, a university tramples the rights of the accused.

    December 6, 2013

    By James Taranto at The Wall Street Journal Joshua Strange will never forget the girl he met in May 2011. Both were underclassmen at Alabama’s Auburn University when a common acquaintance introduced them. “We instantly became attached at the hip and did everything together,” she recalled six months later. “I rather quickly moved into his place. . . . Everything was great until pretty much June 29.” That night, an intimate encounter in Mr. Strange’s bed went wrong. She called police, who detained him for questioning. She said she had awakened to find him forcing himself on her; he said the sexual activity was […]

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  • College to student group: No selling Christmas trees, only ‘holiday’ trees

    November 28, 2012

    by Robert Shibley The Daily Caller   I’m not a big believer in the “war on Christmas” rhetoric that we often hear around this time of year. In a religiously diverse and pluralistic society like ours, politicians, corporations, and other institutions are naturally going to adjust the way they express themselves in order to avoid offending their constituents or customers. But every so often in my work at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), I see an example of seasonal political correctness so ridiculous that it makes me want to put my head down on my desk. Such is the […]

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  • Civil Rights Experts: Florida Universities Prime Offenders Against Students’ Free Speech

    November 13, 2012

    by Eric Giunta Sunshine State News   Each of the 10 public colleges and universities in Florida evaluated by a major civil liberties organization has “some policies that could ban or excessively regulate protected speech,” and nearly all of them have “at least one policy that both clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech. That’s the verdict of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a nonpartisan civil rights organization dedicated, in its own words, “to defending core constitutional rights on university campuses.” Last week the foundation set its sights on Tallahassee’s own Florida State University in a memo addressed to […]

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  • Unlearning liberty: Auburn’s censorship of Ron Paul poster is part of larger problem

    September 20, 2012

    While election season may seem especially surreal this time around — or maybe it just seems that way every four years — nowhere is it stranger than in the weird parallel dimension known as our college campuses. Every presidential election that I’ve experienced since I’ve been president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has without exception been marred by some ridiculous attempt by university lawyers and administrators to limit political debate and discussion. While some of the censorship clearly arises from a stunning lack of understanding of basic principles of law, others seem to come down to “I believe in free […]

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  • Auburn student ordered to take down Ron Paul sign shares his story

    December 22, 2011

      Eric Philips, the Auburn University undergraduate who was forced by the school to remove a campaign sign for Texas Congressman Ron Paul from his dorm room window, says that when it comes to political expression, a double standard exists at his school. “I just wish I’d been able to express myself,” Philips, the president of Auburn for Ron Paul 2012, told The Daily Caller. “I’d just like to advertise for my organization just like all the other organizations can.” A new rule at Auburn states that “hanging or displaying items such as flags, banners, decals, or signs out of or obstructing […]

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  • Who’s afraid of Ron Paul? Apparently, Auburn University

    December 22, 2011

    When someone complained about a student’s Ron Paul poster in his dorm room window this fall, Auburn University in Alabama had the opportunity to take a principled stand for free speech. Of course, since we’re dealing with a university, you can probably guess that it instead chose to double down on an unwise, needlessly restrictive, and unfairly enforced policy at odds with the spirit of the First Amendment. Auburn undergrad Eric Philips probably thought he wasn’t doing anything particularly noteworthy when he hung a banner supporting Representative Ron Paul’s presidential candidacy in his residence hall window. ‘Tis the eve of […]

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  • Troy art student sues after nude photos banned

    November 1, 2005

    An art student sued Troy University on Monday, saying the school violated his free speech rights by censoring his artwork and implementing a campus speech code that unconstitutionally restricts speech. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Montgomery, contends Troy officials removed portions of Blake Dews’ artwork because it featured female nudity. The university issued a statement defending its decision on Dews’ art. ”The photographs in question displayed male full frontal nudity and the university did not consider the photographs to be consistent with our community ‘s standards,” the statement said. ”This is a matter now under litigation and […]

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  • Auburn University Embroiled in a Free Speech Lawsuit

    December 11, 2001

    By Debbie Elliott and Linda Wertheimer at All Things Considered (NPR) ANCHORS: NOAH ADAMS; LINDA WERTHEIMER REPORTERS: DEBBIE ELLIOTT NOAH ADAMS, host: From NPR News, it’s ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I’m Noah Adams. LINDA WERTHEIMER, host: And I’m Linda Wertheimer. In Alabama, Auburn University is embroiled in a free speech lawsuit. It stems from the university’s decision to suspend 15 students and two all-white fraternities after photos from Halloween parties showed the students wearing racially offensive costumes. NPR’s Debbie Elliott reports. DEBBIE ELLIOTT reporting: Shock, embarrassment, humiliation–those are the words that Auburn officials and students alike use to describe their reaction to what […]

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  • Speech Code of the Month: Auburn University

    December 15, 2015

    FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for December 2015: Auburn University. Student protests have been all over the news this fall. While some of the protesters’ demands—such as demands for restrictions on student and faculty speech—have been troubling, the right of students to engage in protest and other expressive activities is critically important, and this autumn’s events have illustrated the power of student protest. What many people may not realize is that a distressing number of universities across the country maintain onerous restrictions on when and where students may demonstrate. One such institution is Auburn University. Auburn’s restrictive […]

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  • What Ezra Klein Gets Wrong about the ‘Yes Means Yes’ Law in California

    October 17, 2014

    On Monday, Vox co-founder Ezra Klein penned an op-ed about how he firmly supported the affirmative consent bill recently passed in California despite his candid acknowledgment that the bill was in fact “terrible.” The general tenor of his column, which I discussed in The Daily Caller yesterday, was that you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs—the eggs being people unjustly found guilty of rape. Critics on the left and the right were equally appalled, as well they—or anyone concerned with civil liberties—should have been. Under this barrage of well-deserved criticism, Klein returned with a longer piece yesterday, […]

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  • Over 1,000 Newspapers Stolen at Auburn University

    September 2, 2014

    The Student Press Law Center reports that on August 28, more than 1,000 copies of The Auburn Plainsman were stolen, costing Auburn University’s student newspaper nearly $800. The newspapers disappeared from seven locations throughout Auburn’s campus. So far no one has claimed responsibility for the theft, but the paper’s editors believe that one of its stories may have been the cause.

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  • Due Process in the News: ‘Washington Post’ Highlights Accused Students’ Concerns

    August 21, 2014

    Yesterday’s issue of The Washington Post included a comprehensive and even-handed article about the due process concerns being raised by an increasing number of students accused of sexual assault within university judicial systems.

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  • ‘Wall Street Journal’ Highlights Inadequate Due Process Protections at Auburn University

    December 9, 2013

    Over the weekend, Wall Street Journal editorial board member James Taranto penned a piece about one Auburn University student’s treatment by the campus judiciary following another student’s allegation that he committed sexual assault. Joshua Strange faced two separate systems. In the criminal court system, a grand jury failed even to find probable cause to prosecute him, despite the fact that probable cause is a very low bar to pass. Yet in the campus court system, using the same information available to the grand jury, the school found Strange guilty under the “preponderance of evidence” evidentiary standard. The finding resulted in Strange’s expulsion from Auburn. […]

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  • Greg Lukianoff in ‘Daily Caller’: Students Have Gotten Used to Censorship

    September 21, 2012

    When Auburn University student Eric Philips hung a Ron Paul poster in his dormitory window, he was ordered to take it down just three hours later. The university cited a school-wide ban on window hangings as the reason for the censorship, saying that it was instituted for “safety” reasons. Auburn must not care very much about the safety of its students, though, because Philips took to campus with his iPad and easily showed that this policy wasn’t being evenly enforced. Fraternity banners, Halloween decorations, and Christmas lights were all allowed in windows, but a Ron Paul banner was not. National […]

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  • On Graduation Day, Remedial Lessons on Free Speech Needed at Auburn

    May 7, 2012

    Auburn University senior Eric Philips is one of the more than 3,300 Auburn students being awarded their degrees today at the university’s commencement ceremonies. He has also been working with FIRE for months now to reform Auburn’s restrictive policy banning window decorations—which seems to include the Ron Paul banner he was told to remove from his window last fall, but exclude the many banners and other items fellow students have hung there without incident. As I noted recently, Auburn has recast its argument to one based on protecting the “safety, health and wellbeing” of the Auburn student population, which, if […]

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  • Greg’s Appearance on ‘Stossel’ Now Online

    April 24, 2012

    FIRE President Greg Lukianoff’s appearance on Stossel last week is now available online. The episode highlights two current FIRE cases: Auburn University’s selective banning of student window hangings and the University of Cincinnati’s threats to arrest students who wanted to gather signatures outside of the school’s free speech zone. Greg also told the Florida State University audience that FSU’s speech codes are unconstitutional. Check out the video below!  

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  • ‘Safety’ Defense Only Makes Auburn Look Foolish

    April 23, 2012

    For months now, as shown last week on Stossel, FIRE has been fighting alongside Auburn University student Eric Philips for the reform of an unnecessarily restrictive policy on window decorations at Auburn. As we’ve argued, the policy needlessly curtails a traditional form of student expression. What’s more, as FIRE and Philips have repeatedly shown, the policy has been unevenly enforced, with Philips being ordered to remove his banner supporting Ron Paul’s presidential candidacy while other students have faced no such censorship.   Here’s the timeline: FIRE first wrote to Auburn about the policy in December 2011; Auburn responded that it […]

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  • March Student Spotlight: Allen Mendenhall of Auburn University

    March 16, 2012

    Each month, the CFN Student Spotlight features a student member who is working to promote individual rights on his or her campus. For March, I am pleased to announce that our featured student is Allen Mendenhall of Auburn University. As a Ph.D. candidate and teacher at Auburn, Allen has helped establish an environment open to free speech and robust debate both in the classes he teaches and the classes he attends. He maintains an open-door policy for students and he encourages them to speak their minds in his classroom, regardless of their opinions. He also advocates actively for free speech […]

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  • Censored Auburn Student Shares Story with ‘Plainsman’

    January 24, 2012

    For weeks now, FIRE has been fighting for free speech at Auburn University, which continues to maintain an unwise and illiberal ban on window hangings in its dorms despite ample evidence pointing to its uneven enforcement of the policy. Now student Eric Philips—who came to FIRE after being forced to remove a banner supporting Ron Paul’s presidential candidacy from his window—has told his story to Auburn’s student newspaper, The Auburn Plainsman. As Philips relates to the Plainsman: “Well, I noticed everybody else hanging banners, at least in the sororities and some people inside my dorm with Auburn banners in their window,” Philips said. “There’s […]

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  • Double Standard at Auburn: Ron Paul Banner Banned from Dorm Room Window While ‘Total Ban’ Goes Unenforced

    January 16, 2012

    Auburn University has discriminated against a student by ordering him to remove a Ron Paul banner from his dormitory window. Although the university has nominally instituted a “total ban” on window decorations, a dozen or more other window decorations have been permitted. Moreover, the university has failed to provide any evidence that such a total ban is necessary.  FIRE has asked Auburn to justify its both lax and discriminatory enforcement of the “total ban” on this form of student expression. On November 7, Auburn University ordered a Ron Paul for President campaign banner removed from the inside of undergraduate Eric […]

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  • Auburn Student Blasts University’s Window Policy

    January 13, 2012

    Auburn University doctoral student Allen Mendenhall has written an op-ed for today’s Montgomery Advertiser criticizing Auburn’s decision to censor a Ron Paul banner in the dormitory window of student Eric Philips. Allen, a FIRE Campus Freedom Network member, explains that Philips’ case is of particular concern to him because of his extensive family connections to Auburn and his love of the school—he describes himself as “bleeding orange and blue.” Allen expresses his frustration at Auburn’s seemingly flippant attitude towards the First Amendment and student rights, writing: President Gogue and the Auburn administration ought to revise these strict policies. The prohibition of all window displays is unreasonable and, when […]

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  • Still Looking for Answers from Phi Beta Kappa

    December 14, 2005

    FIRE recently wrote a letter to John Churchill, secretary of the Phi Beta Kappa Society, in which we ask the organization to stand behind its stated commitment to freedom of expression by addressing the issue of repressive speech codes at its member institutions. In a recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription required), Churchill responded that although Phi Beta Kappa is “interested in freedom of inquiry and freedom of expression,” the society does not “undertake that kind of investigative activity.” Apparently, the society has the resources to conduct a “rigorous three-year review” of prospective member institutions that includes […]

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  • Practical Advice for Fraternities Caught in the Battle for Free Speech on Campus

    September 16, 2004

    I. Introduction While there is no shortage of free speech battles on college campuses, fraternities have the dubious honor of being at the center of many of the least sympathetic controversies. From Halloween parties where brothers show up dressed as Ku Klux Klan members to fraternity newsletters that graphically relate a brother’s sexual exploits with named co-eds, fraternities sometimes express themselves in ways that are not exactly likely to win the battle for hearts and minds. However, although fraternities may later regret the actions of some of their brothers, they must not allow their rights to be stripped away by […]

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