Boston University

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

Speech Code Rating

Boston University 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.

This school does not have any cases at this time.

Red Light Policies

  • Boston University Lifebook: Tolerance & Religion 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Policies on Tolerance, Respect, and Civility

    Respecting the rights of other students presupposes that in the close and diverse society of residence life, student expression of opinion will be respectful of others and will be exercised in good taste and decency.

    Bigotry, hatred, and intolerance have no place in the residential community.

    In displaying or distributing expressions of opinion, students are expected to show respect for the aesthetic, social, moral, and religious feelings of others upon whom their views may be imposed. Students living in the residences are entitled to expect that those with whom they live will demonstrate tolerance for diversity and respect for privacy.

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  • Boston University Lifebook: University Conditions of Use and Policy on Computing Ethics 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies

    You must not use any computing facility irresponsibly or in a way that might needlessly interfere with the work of others. This includes transmitting or making accessible offensive, annoying, or harassing material….

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Yellow Light Policies
  • Boston University Lifebook: Residential Policies: Door Decorations 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Posting and Distribution Policies

    The posting of materials on the exterior of room and apartment doors is permitted. However, it is expected that student expression will be respectful of others, will be exercised in good taste, and will not be in violation of the right of other persons to be free from invasion of their personal privacy.

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  • Boston University Lifebook: Sexual Misconduct- Definitions 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    Sexual Harassment is unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that has the effect of creating a hostile or stressful living, learning, or working environment, or whenever toleration of such conduct or rejection of it is the basis for an academic or employment decision affecting an individual. Conduct is considered “unwelcome” if the person did not request or invite it and considered the conduct to be undesirable or offensive.

    Sexual harassment includes any conduct or incident that is sufficiently serious that it is likely to limit or deny a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from the University’s educational programs or a faculty or staff member’s ability to work, which may include a single incident of sexual assault or other serious sexual misconduct.

    The following non-exhaustive list includes examples of behavior that could be considered sexual harassment:

    • Unwelcome sexual innuendo, propositions, sexual attention, or suggestive comments and gestures.
    • Unwelcome physical contact of a sexual nature, such as touching, hugging, kissing, patting, or pinching, that is uninvited and unwanted or unwelcome by the other person.
    • 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 a person communicates are 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 e-mails or Web sites of a sexual nature. (For more information, on misconduct using the University’s computing facilities, please see the Conditions of Use and Policy on Computing Ethics.)
    • Non-academic display or circulation of written materials or pictures degrading to a person(s) or gender group.
    • Unwelcome attention, such as repeated inappropriate flirting, inappropriate or repetitive compliments about clothing or physical attributes, staring, or making sexually oriented gestures.
    • Change of academic or employment responsibilities (increase in difficulty or decrease of responsibility) based on sex, gender identity or expression, or sexual orientation.
    • Use of a position of power or authority to: (i) threaten or punish, either directly or by implication, for refusing to tolerate harassment, for refusing to submit to sexual activity, or for reporting harassment; or (ii) promise rewards in return for sexual favors.
    • Acts of verbal, nonverbal, or physical aggression, intimidation, or hostility based on sex or sex-stereotyping.


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  • Dean of Students: Student Responsibilities 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Policies on Tolerance, Respect, and Civility

    Specific violations of student responsibilities include but are not limited to: … Physical or verbal abuse, or assault or the threat of assault to other persons.

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Green Light Policies
  • Dean of Students: Student Responsibilities 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression

    The general laws of society confer rights and impose obligations on all citizens. When they enter the University, students retain their rights under the laws of society, but student status confers no immunity or sanctuary from federal, state, or municipal laws.

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  • Faculty Handbook: Academic Freedom 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression

    Academic freedom is essential in institutions of higher education if they are to make their proper contribution to the common good. The common good depends upon the free search for truth and its free exposition. It is that which justifies academic freedom, not the interest of the individual faculty member or even the interest of a particular university.

    Academic freedom is the freedom to engage in research, scholarship, or other creative work in order to expand knowledge, to publish research findings, to teach and to learn in an atmosphere of unfettered free inquiry and exposition.

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  • It’s Time to End ‘Rape Culture’ Hysteria

    March 21, 2014

    by Caroline Kitchens at Time The nation’s largest and most influential anti-sexual-violence organization is rejecting the idea that culture — as opposed to the actions of individuals — is responsible for rape. “Rape is as American as apple pie,” says blogger Jessica Valenti. She and her sisters-in-arms describe our society as a “rape culture” where violence against women is so normal, it’s almost invisible.Films, magazines, fashion, books, music, humor, even Barbie — according to the activists — cooperate in conveying the message that women are there to be used, abused, and exploited. Recently, rape culture theory has migrated from the lonely corners […]

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  • ‘Free Speech Week’ Celebrated on Campuses Nationwide

    April 13, 2012

    FIRE celebrated Free Speech Week last week by teaming up with Students For Liberty to send FIRE speakers and materials to student groups across the country. We’re pleased to announce it was a great success!   To mark the occasion, 72 student groups distributed FIRE materials and pocket-sized Constitutions on campus. More than 20 student groups also organized expressive events. Many decided to build Free Speech Walls at schools including American University, Boston University, Harvard University, Kansas State University, Winthrop University, the University of Chicago, and the University of Texas San Antonio. FIRE’s Campus Freedom Network (CFN) also worked with […]

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  • Boston University’s ‘Daily Free Press’ on BU’s Speech Codes and Will’s Campus Visit

    October 6, 2011

    As part of our Speakers Bureau program, FIRE Director of Legal and Public Advocacy Will Creeley gave two speeches yesterday at Boston University (BU), one about social media to the Federalist Society and one about BU’s speech codes and FIRE’s work to Liberty at Boston University. Following Will’s talks, BU student newspaper The Daily Free Press has written an article drawing attention to Will’s points about free speech at BU: Creeley said that while BU outlaws verbal abuse, he wonders what BU means by “verbal abuse.” Students know extremes of verbal abuse, he said, but may be unaware that some more nuanced examples, such as diatribes […]

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  • Silverglate: Universities Take Over Alumni Magazines

    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, […]

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  • Politics vs. Porn

    September 30, 2005

    Earlier this week, my FIRE colleague Robert Shibley called Torch readers’ attention to a free speech controversy at Vassar College. Students there were outraged by the latest issue of The Imperialist, the publication of Vassar’s Moderate, Independent, and Conservative Alliance (MICA), because it criticized self-segregation on the part of minority students. There were many calls for The Imperialist and MICA to be defunded and/or derecognized by the student government. Today, I spoke with Graydon Gordian, the editor of The Imperialist, and Matt Ambrose, the president of MICA. I am pleased to report that Vassar’s student government has apparently declined to […]

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