Location: Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts
Federal Circuit: 1st Circuit
Boston College 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.
April 2, 2009
Boston College (BC) promises that all of its students have the right “to learn, which includes the right of access to ideas, the right of access to facts and opinions, the right to express ideas, and the right to discuss those ideas with others.” At the same time, BC undercuts those promises with other restrictive policies, and it has taken several actions to interfere with these rights. BC thus misleads students who count on its promises of fundamental intellectual rights, restricting speech that would be protected on a public campus. Although BC is a private college dedicated both to “intellectual […]» Read More
April 2, 2009
Boston College not only banned former Weather Underground member William Ayers from campus but also refused to permit him to speak on campus via satellite to an audience limited to members of the BC community, citing “security issues.” Administrators have not replied to any of FIRE’s letters, asking them to reaffirm their commitment to free speech.» Read More
University of Massachusetts Amherst: Student Group Charged Unconstitutional Security Fee for Controversial Speaker
March 24, 2009
The Republican Club at UMass Amherst was pressured to accept $444.52 in extra security fees by the university’s police department after it became known that students were planning to protest and disrupt its lecture event featuring conservative columnist Don Feder. Though the Republican Club reluctantly accepted the fees, the speech was nonetheless disrupted by protesters, and Feder was unable to finish his lecture. After pressure from FIRE, including a column in The Boston Globe pointing out that forcing groups to subsidize the activities of their protesters is unconstitutional, the UMass Amherst administration relented and relieved the group of the extra […]» Read More
Red Light Policies
Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies
Users are to exercise caution and good judgment if there is a reasonable expectation that accessed material may be considered objectionable by some. Such material is to be accessed in a private environment and in a manner that will not negatively affect those who may deem it objectionable or offensive. Public workstations (i.e., those in open offices, laboratories, the libraries, and other public places) are not to be used to access such material, hard copies are not to be directed to public printers, and potentially offensive material is not to be forwarded to others without their consent. The use of potentially offensive language in the text of network messages or to identify technological resources is prohibited. The use of University technological resources for creating or sending nuisance, harassing, or obscene materials or messages is also prohibited. Moreover, users of network resources are prohibited from engaging in any activity that is proscribed by federal and/or< state law.
Communications from members of the University community are to reflect mutual respect, civility, and other moral standards. The use of obscene or intolerant language, and the use of similarly offensive graphic or video images, clearly violate these standards and are considered inappropriate for electronic and all other forms of University discourse. The determination of what is obscene, offensive, or intolerant is within the sole discretion of the University.
Speech Code Category: Policies on Bias and Hate Speech
This protocol uses the term “bias-motivated offensive conduct” to refer to behavior that, whether or not criminal, constitutes a violation of behavioral standards and policies listed in the Student Guide and Professional Standards of Boston College, and that is motivated in whole or in part by the offender’s bias toward the victim’s race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, nationality, gender or ethnicity.
Students accused of bias-motivated offensive conduct are subject to discipline in accordance with the procedures established by the Office of the Dean for Student Development (ODSD), and if found responsible may face sanctions up to and including suspension or dismissal from the University.
Speech Code Category: Posting and Distribution Policies
Postings must be consistent with the principles and values espoused by Boston College. In addition, the content of the postings must avoid demeaning or discriminatory portrayals of individuals or groups, cannot be libelous, violate copyright law, or contain any material that is inconsistent with the community standards of BC, including any references to alcohol, drugs, or sexual innuendos. We reserve the right to make decisions regarding the approval of what is to be posted.
Speech Code Category: Protest and Demonstration Policies
To ensure that public demonstrations of opinion do not violate directly or indirectly the rights of others by preventing the ordinary operation of the University, applications for permits for all activities in the nature of a public speech, rally, demonstration, march, or protest must be submitted a minimum of 48 hours in advance to the Dean of Students.
The Dean reserves the right to determine the time and place of any public demonstration.
Speech Code Category: Policies on Tolerance, Respect, and Civility
Boston College imposes an obligation upon all its students to demonstrate responsible citizenship and to not create conditions, which disrupt the educational environment (e.g., excessive or unreasonable noise, excessively large parties, or rude and abusive language or behavior). This policy applies to all students while on-campus, off-campus, studying abroad, etc.
Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
For the purposes of this policy, the following are considered discriminatory harassment.
1. Conduct that, by reference to the sex, race, color, religion, national origin, citizenship, handicap, age, sexual orientation, or status as a Vietnam-era veteran of a member or members of the University community, intentionally or recklessly abuses, mocks, or disparages a person or persons so as to affect their educational performance or living or working environment at Boston College.
2. Offensive sexual behavior whenever toleration of such conduct or rejection of it is the basis for a personnel or academic decision affecting an individual; or such conduct has the purpose or effect of creating a hostile or stressful living, learning, or working environment. Examples of behavior that may constitute sexual harassment include sexual advances, any form of retaliation or threat of retaliation against an individual who rejects such advances, sexual epithets, jokes, or comments, comment or inquiry about an individual’s body or sexual experiences, unwelcome leering, whistling, brushing against the body, sexual gestures, and displaying sexually suggestive images.
Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
The University does not limit its ability to respond to inappropriate sexual behavior and forms of sexual misconduct that may not be specifically described in this policy or that does not constitute criminal behavior. None of the definitions below may be read to inhibit the University’s ability to address any incident or behavior that it reasonably deems to constitute sexual misconduct or create a discriminatory environment.
Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression
All student members of the Boston College community have certain responsibilities to the institution and to its members. These include:
The obligation to refrain from interfering with the freedom of expression of others. This would include such activities as newspaper thefts, attempting to shout down speakers, and intentional jamming of computer networks.
The Bylaws of the Trustees of Boston College and the University Statutes: The University Objective 14-15
Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression
It is the purpose of Boston College to cultivate the attitudes and to provide the means essential to achieve:
2. freedom of inquiry as indispensable for attaining truth.
May 21, 2009
Those who charge that modern-day liberalism has become fundamentally illiberal toward speech and ideas that challenge its own dogma could ask for no better illustration than recent events at UMass-Amherst. On March 11, the Republican Club at UMass hosted Don Feder, a conservative journalist, addressing the subject of hate speech and hate crimes. Feder believes that legislation which singles out hate crimes with special penalties, rather than treating all violent crime equally, amounts to unconstitutional punishment of bad speech or bad thoughts. He also disputes the notion of a hate crime epidemic in America. A group of left-wing students announced […]» Read More
April 22, 2009
Those who charge that modern-day liberalism has become fundamentally illiberal toward speech and ideas that challenge its own dogma could ask for no better illustration than the recent events at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, a bastion of the academic left. On March 11, the Republican Club at UMass hosted Don Feder, a conservative journalist and former columnist for The Boston Herald, addressing the controversial subject of hate speech and hate crimes. Feder believes that legislation which singles out hate crimes with special penalties, rather than treating all violent crime equally, amounts to unconstitutional punishment of bad speech or bad thoughts. […]» Read More
April 21, 2009
An organization that defends individual liberty in education is taking issue with the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Last month UMass-Amherst came under fire for its treatment of conservative columnist Don Feder. Feder was invited by a conservative school club to give a presentation, but was unable to do so after student protestors heckled him off stage while university officials stood by. Now another censorship issue is brewing on the campus after student protestors stole copies of a conservative newspaper and blocked its distribution on campus. Adam Kissel is the director of the individual rights defense program at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, […]» Read More
April 16, 2009
The Founding Fathers thought it was so important that they made it No. 1. The former slave Frederick Douglass told a Boston crowd that liberty was meaningless without it. Public Enemy rapped about it in “Fight the Power.” Across the centuries, freedom of speech has been held up as a freedom worth fighting for. It is enshrined in the First Amendment. How regrettable that it seems so little valued at the Massachusetts institutions where it should be most respected – our universities. In late March, Boston College cancelled the appearance of University of Illinois professor William Ayers, a former member […]» Read More
April 9, 2009
WHEN CONSERVATIVE columnist Don Feder spoke at UMass-Amherst last month, his speech was cut short by a large group of students whose noisy and disruptive antics drove Feder off the lectern midway through his speech. As one UMass student wrote after the event, “I am embarrassed of the way my fellow classmates have chosen to express their discontent.” She should be – but she should also know that she is not the only one who is due for some embarrassment. America’s campuses are seeing a growing movement by students to shut off debate by organized groups and silence speakers with […]» Read More
October 7, 2013
“Civility” is one of the words that sets off alarm bells at FIRE. (No, it’s not because we’re unusually rude.) Many universities have enacted “civility codes,” ostensibly to maintain a respectful and inclusive atmosphere on campus. But, as my colleague Samantha Harris has pointed out, this is often censorship by another name. If you curtail how someone expresses him or herself, you may also restrict the message they can convey. Free speech cannot be subjected to a politeness requirement. As Justice Harlan observed in Cohen v. California, 403 U.S. 15, 25 (1971): For, while the particular four-letter word being litigated […]» Read More
July 23, 2012
by Harvey Silverglate Forbes.com Much ink has been spilled, but little insight exhibited, in the ongoing imbroglio stemming from Boston College’s, the news media’s and the federal courts’ failure to accord robust First Amendment protection to oral history scholars who have recorded their interviews of participants in the Irish “Troubles” and who thereby seek to preserve for posterity nothing less than the lessons of war and peace. Now, a federal appeals court in Boston has issued an opinion that holds that the interview recordings and transcripts compiled by scholars and housed in BC’s library under a seal of confidentiality for the lifetime of each interviewee must be […]» Read More
February 14, 2011
Under pressure from FIRE, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst has revised its policy governing rallies on campus—and not a moment too soon. FIRE supporters will remember that the policy had earned UMass Amherst intensely negative attention, both here on The Torch and in the national media. In January, FIRE named the policy the 2010 Speech Code of the Year. In the post announcing this dubious distinction, Sam explained just why UMass Amherst’s policy was a cut above—or below—all the rest: While all 12 Speech Codes of the Month in 2010 flagrantly violated students’ right to free expression, one-the University […]» Read More
November 18, 2010
The Boston Globe reports that Massachusetts’ Supreme Judicial Court has thrown out evidence in a drug case garnered from an apparently nonconsensual dorm room search by Boston College police. Hat tip to The Chronicle of Higher Education.» Read More
August 7, 2009
Boston College (BC) promises that all of its students have the right “to learn, which includes the right of access to ideas, the right of access to facts and opinions, the right to express ideas, and the right to discuss those ideas with others.” At the same time, BC undercuts those promises with other restrictive policies, and it has taken several actions to interfere with these rights. BC thus misleads students who count on its promises of fundamental intellectual rights, restricting speech that would be protected on a public campus. Although BC is a private college dedicated both to “intellectual excellence” […]» Read More
June 5, 2009
Massachusetts’ highest court invalidated a search warrant on May 21 that, two months earlier, had allowed Boston College (BC) and State Police to confiscate a BC student’s electronic equipment from his dorm room—mainly because the student had allegedly sent e-mails that were legal but deemed “harassing” by the authorities. One day in late January, campus police reported that BC student Riccardo Calixte and his roommate were having “domestic issues.” The roommate alleged that Calixte had been involved in various criminal activities via computer, such as hacking into the BC computer system to change grades, and illegally downloading movies and music. […]» Read More
April 23, 2009
Under pressure from FIRE, University of Massachusetts Amherst has rejected the student government’s official censorship of The Minuteman, a conservative campus newspaper that mocked a student government official. In addition, FIRE has learned that UMass Amherst has held accountable at least one of the people who stole copies of The Minuteman out of the hands of a student while a campus police officer watched and did nothing. Several video recordings of the newspaper theft at UMass show UMass police officer Lisa Kidwell idly standing by as hundreds of copies of The Minuteman are stolen out of the hands of a […]» Read More
April 23, 2009
AMHERST, Mass., April 23, 2009—Under pressure from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), University of Massachusetts Amherst has rejected the student government’s official censorship of The Minuteman, a conservative campus newspaper that mocked a student government official. In addition, FIRE has learned that UMass Amherst has held accountable at least one of the people who stole copies of The Minuteman out of the hands of a student while a campus police officer watched and did nothing. “Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis was right: Sunlight is the best of disinfectants,” FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said. “Next time, maybe UMass […]» Read More
April 9, 2009
Today’s Boston Globe features an op-ed from FIRE Vice President Robert Shibley on the disruption of Don Feder’s speech at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Robert points out that this incident is indicative of a larger problem on college campuses, where students resort to disruption and violence to preempt speech with which they disagree: America’s campuses are seeing a growing movement by students to shut off debate by organized groups and silence speakers with whom they disagree. Rather than engage in the give-and-take that should be characteristic of the university as a “marketplace of ideas,” these students have decided […]» Read More
April 3, 2009
Defending free speech is often an exhilarating and rewarding experience, fighting the good fight in an uphill battle for constitutional rights against an industry worth hundreds of billions of dollars. But sometimes, and this was one of those weeks, that hill looks pretty steep. Greg writes in his latest column on The Huffington Post on the “hell week for campus free speech.” FIRE broke the story of newspaper theft at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where students stole copies of a conservative student paper right in front of a campus police officer (all caught on tape). The University of […]» Read More
March 31, 2009
Page A-1 of Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle features four of FIRE’s cases on unacceptably high security fees for controversial speakers. In each case, the potential reaction of the audience was used to assess security fees and charge them to the host. But as the Supreme Court wrote in Forsyth County v. Nationalist Movement (1992), “Speech cannot be financially burdened, any more than it can be punished or banned, simply because it might offend a hostile mob.” In the article, Bob Egelko points out that both Berkeley and UCLA, two of the three top-ranked schools in U.S. News & World Report, […]» Read More
April 4, 2008
Echoing the circumstances of FIRE’s ongoing case at Colorado College, Boston College student newspaper The Heights reported yesterday that six students responsible for posting satirical flyers around campus are facing discipline for the flyers’ “inflammatory” content. While the group posted several different flyers, one in particular provoked the College’s strong response. Posing as an advertisement for a “Black Baby Petting Zoo,” the flyer mocked white students who travel on “service trips” abroad to volunteer during spring break. Instead of traveling, the flyer purported to offer students a chance to “satisfy your need to cleanse your whiteness” while remaining on campus. […]» Read More
November 17, 2006
Harvey Silverglate, FIRE’s co-founder and Chairman of the Board of Directors, writes in The Boston Phoenix this week about the alarming trend among major universities towards university-controlled alumni publications. Silverglate points out that just like politicians and major corporations, universities are increasingly concerned about “controlling the message”—a stance that means traditional independent alumni publications become little more than unwanted interference. The result? Alumni are subjected to an avalanche of puff pieces, self-congratulatory blather, and thinly-veiled donation requests. Surveying the alumni publications of Harvard, Boston College, and Boston University, Silverglate discovers that all three gloss over controversies on campus for rosier, […]» Read More
September 25, 2006
Check out what the Student Press Law Center (SPLC) reported Friday about the confiscation of 3,000 copies of an issue of the Boston College (BC) student newspaper calling freshman orientation “miserable.” University administrators at BC are calling the incident “a misunderstanding.” Tom Wiedeman, editor of BC’s student publication The Heights, told SPLC, “[Calling orientation ‘miserable’] was supposed to be a joke…Right after that it says, ‘don’t worry, life in BC gets better.’” \ Rev. Joseph Marchese, director of the freshman orientation program, ordered the newspaper removed from newsstands and claimed some information in it “misdirected” students and parents about student […]» Read More
September 18, 2006
Jan Niklas Wolfe, a researcher and paralegal for Harvey Silverglate, FIRE co-founder and chairman of the board of trustees, reports on a shocking instance of censorship at Boston College. Wolfe is a 2006 graduate of Boston College and a former Heights associate news editor. As reported here, summer employees at Boston College (BC) threw away thousands of copies of The Heights, the university’s independent student newspaper. What brought about this blatant act of censorship at a school whose student handbook labels such actions “vandalism” and therefore punishable? The answer is one of the more common explanations for censorship in higher […]» Read More
September 27, 2005
Evidence has begun to roll in showing that the freedom of the student press is under assault as never before. It’s certainly bad enough that our own federal court system is attacking the free campus press through the Seventh Circuit’s en banc decision in Hosty v. Carter (now being appealed to the Supreme Court)—but hold on, it gets worse. In just the last few days, FIRE has become aware of not one, not two, but three different assaults on campus press freedom that have taken place since the beginning of the school year—and it’s only the end of September. Our […]» Read More