Brown University

Location: Providence, Rhode Island
Type: Private
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Speech Code Rating

Brown 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

Due Process Rating

Sexual Misconduct

Read more
F

Non-Sexual Misconduct

Read more
C

  • Student Conduct: Policies and Regulations- Harassment – Sexual or Racial

    Speech Code Rating: Yellow
    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: September 18, 2017

    Sexual harassment is understood to encompass a wide range of behavior, including the coercion of a person into a sexual relationship, the subjection of the person to inappropriate verbal or physical sexual attention, and retaliation for a refusal to comply with sexual demands. … Racial harassment is generally ... Read More
  • Information Technology: Acceptable Use Policy

    Speech Code Rating: Yellow
    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies
    Last updated: September 13, 2018

    Other prohibited activities include: … Use of Brown’s computing services and facilities for political purposes. Read More
  • Information Technology: Acceptable Use Examples

    Speech Code Rating: Yellow
    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies
    Last updated: September 13, 2018

    Other Inappropriate Activities … You download, store, print and/or display materials that could be perceived by others as contributing to an intimidating, hostile, or sexually offensive working environment. You send out unauthorized and unsolicited email messages to other Brown community members. Read More
  • Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment, Sexual Violence, Relationship and Interpersonal Violence and Stalking Policy

    Speech Code Rating: Yellow
    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: September 13, 2018

    Sexual Harassment is any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favors, or other unwanted conduct of a sexual nature, whether verbal, non-verbal, graphic, physical, electronic, or otherwise, when one or more of the following conditions are present: … Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably... Read More
  • Code of Student Conduct

    Speech Code Rating: Yellow
    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: September 13, 2018

    Offenses: … Subjecting another person or group to abusive, threatening, intimidating, harassing, or humiliating actions, including, but not limited to, those based on race, color, religion, sex, gender, disability, age, economic status, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender ex... Read More
  • Code of Student Conduct: Other Policies and Regulations- Protest and Demonstration Guidelines

    Speech Code Rating: Green
    Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression
    Last updated: September 13, 2018

    The University must be a place where ideas are exchanged freely. By asserting their rights to protest, individuals cannot decide for the entire community which ideas will or will not receive free expression. Read More

Policies are rated on their inclusion of 10 due process safeguards. Each policy may receive 2 points for fully including that safeguard, 1 point for partial inclusion, and 0 points for no meaningful inclusion. Most, but not all, institutions have separate policies for sexual misconduct and all other misconduct. See FIRE’s Spotlight on Due Process report for more information.

Grades

Sexual Misconduct

F
2/20
  • Presumption of innocence
  • Adequate and timely notice
  • Adequate time to prepare
  • Conflicts of interest prohibited
  • Right to challenge fact-finders
  • Access to all evidence
  • Right to face accuser and witness
  • Active participation of counsel
  • Meaningful right to appeal
  • Expulsion must be unanimous

Non-Sexual Misconduct

C
11/20
  • Presumption of innocence
  • Adequate and timely notice
  • Adequate time to prepare
  • Conflicts of interest prohibited
  • Right to challenge fact-finders
  • Access to all evidence
  • Right to face accuser and witness
  • Active participation of counsel
  • Meaningful right to appeal
  • Expulsion must be unanimous
  • Brown University: Wrongful Suspension of Religious Student Group

    October 27, 2006

    Brown University inexplicably suspended one of its largest religious student organizations, with shifting and unclear reasons for its decision. Brown ignored requests from Trinity Presbyterian Church’s campus fellowship for an explanation of its suspension and the student group finally sought help from FIRE. Brown University finally lifted its semester-long suspension of the Reformed University Fellowship… Read more

  • Appeals court declines to expand universities’ obligations under Title IX

    July 27, 2018

    Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruled that a Providence College student did not have a Title IX claim against Brown University, even though she was allegedly raped by several Brown students on Brown’s campus. While the facts alleged by plaintiff Jane Doe are harrowing, she sought relief under a… Read more

  • Speech Code Countdown: ‘U.S. News’ Top 25 College Rankings, Numbers 19-11

    October 6, 2016

    FIRE’s U.S. News & World Report “Best Colleges” Countdown continues today. We’re giving you a school-by-school analysis of just how well America’s “Best Colleges” do when it comes to protecting free speech on campus. Unfortunately, in today’s crop of top campuses, troubling speech codes abound. As part of FIRE’s fresh look at U.S. News’ top-ranked… Read more

  • ‘TWISTING TITLE IX’ WEEK: Judge Rules Against Brown in Sexual Misconduct Lawsuit, but Cites School’s Broad Latitude to Punish Students

    September 30, 2016

    Just after I wrote Wednesday’s due process legal update, a federal judge ruled against Brown University in a breach of contract lawsuit brought by a student suspended from Brown for sexual misconduct. While the decision is a victory for the student plaintiff, the judge’s opinion is also a powerful reminder of how few legal rights… Read more

  • Greg to Give Constitution Day Lecture at Brown: ‘Should Free Speech be Limited on College Campuses?’ [UPDATED]

    September 12, 2016

    Update (September 13, 2016): This event is now waitlisted. Sign up soon to be added to the list for seats that may become available. FIRE President and CEO Greg Lukianoff will be at Brown University this Thursday, September 15, to discuss the state of free speech on campus. The event, “Should Free Speech be Limited on College… Read more

  • Due Process Legal Update: Settlements, Trials, and More

    July 27, 2016

    A little over five years ago, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued the “Dear Colleague” letter that ushered in a period of unprecedented federal intervention into colleges’ internal disciplinary systems. In just those five years, students around the country have filed more than 110 lawsuits alleging that they were denied a… Read more

  • Due Process Legal Update: Students’ Title IX and Due Process Claims Move Forward, But Challenges Remain

    March 1, 2016

    As I’ve written about on many previous occasions, there are a large number of ongoing lawsuits by students alleging that through unfair campus sexual misconduct proceedings, their institutions violated their constitutional due process rights, breached contracts, and discriminated against them on the basis of sex. In the past eight days alone, there have been four… Read more

  • FIRE Q&A: Reason@Brown’s Christopher Robotham

    December 28, 2015

    “At Brown, there is an underground group whose purpose is to allow kids to say what they ought to be free to say above ground.” So begins Jay Nordlinger’s National Review profile of Reason@Brown. Christopher Robotham, 21, is the group’s founder. He tells FIRE that the by-invitation-only club is a forum where Brown students can… Read more

  • It’s Already Been a Remarkably Bad Year for Student Press

    October 21, 2015

    Many student journalists are being taught an unfortunate lesson by college administrators and their fellow students lately: Don’t publish anything that might offend anyone. That this advice is antithetical to a free press on campus, and that journalists cannot be held responsible for how their readers react to opinions they publish, doesn’t seem to matter… Read more

  • FSN Member, Former FIRE Intern Defend Free Speech at Brown

    October 16, 2015

    Former FIRE intern Daniella Dichter and FIRE Student Network member Rohan Gulati have penned an excellent op-ed in The Brown Daily Herald, responding to recent student calls asking Brown University to censor articles that could be considered “racist, classist, cissexist, heterosexist, sexist or ableist.” Criticism of the Daily Herald began after the paper published two… Read more

  • Monopolizing the Marketplace of Ideas

    July 17, 2015

    The point of defending free speech is ensuring that the minority has the right to express their views without being silenced by the majority. This principle of allowing unpopular opinions to be voiced is upheld when groups stage protests, but the right to free speech does not extend to protests that prevent discourse. Protests are… Read more

  • The Secret Life of Safe Spaces

    July 15, 2015

    Brown University is encouraging student-led panels and workshops on hot-button issues to be “safe spaces,” where students are “safe” to convey ideas without judging or being judged. But ironically, the one thing truly unsafe in these spaces is free speech. Some recent examples of Brown’s safe space initiative include a panel about the experience of… Read more

  • FIRE Chairman Calls Out Northeast Colleges in Annual ‘Muzzle Awards’

    July 6, 2015

    Each summer for the past eighteen years, FIRE Co-founder and Chairman Harvey Silverglate has announced the winners of his annual “Campus Muzzle Awards”: colleges and universities in the Northeast stifling campus discourse in particularly outrageous ways. Along with myself and fellow research assistant Timothy Moore, this year, Harvey has written about incidents at Brown University,… Read more

  • Judith Shulevitz: College Students Are ‘Hiding From Scary Ideas’

    March 23, 2015

    One Brown University student explained her recent decision to leave a debate about sexual assault thusly: “I was feeling bombarded by a lot of viewpoints that really go against my dearly and closely held beliefs.” In seeking to avoid ideas with which she disagrees, this student is far from alone—and this depressingly widespread sentiment is… Read more

  • Brown University’s Two-Faced Attitude Toward Free Speech

    November 18, 2014

    This afternoon, Brown University’s Janus Forum will be hosting a debate titled, “How Should Colleges Handle Sexual Assault?” The debate will feature Wendy McElroy, ifeminists.com editor and “rape culture” skeptic, facing off against Feministing.com founder Jessica Valenti. In response to some students’ complaints about the event, Brown president Christina Paxson announced the creation of an… Read more

  • Brown Releases Final Response to Ray Kelly ‘Heckler’s Veto’ Incident

    September 30, 2014

    Eleven months ago, my colleague Will Creeley wrote about a disappointing incident at Brown University in which a crowd shouted down New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, halting what was to be a speech followed by a question-and-answer session for students. The hecklers objected to Kelly’s enforcement of stop-and-frisk policies, and they opted to… Read more

  • 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.”

  • Brown Student Tells Story of Sexual Assault Accusation in ‘Daily Beast’

    June 12, 2014

    As college administrators, state and federal lawmakers, the White House, and the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) take steps to combat sexual assault on college and university campuses, it is critically important to ensure that attempts to keep students safe do not exacerbate the already serious threats to due process that exist for students accused of sexual misconduct. Consideration of the legal problems presented by the use of the low “preponderance of the evidence” (50.01% certainty) standard of proof and by the lack of procedural safeguards in campus hearings is necessary—but it doesn’t tell the full story. Brown University student Daniel Kopin’s story of being accused of rape, published in The Daily Beast on Sunday, serves as a powerful reminder that the dangers posed by unfair hearings are not hypothetical.

  • University of Chicago Professor in ‘Tribune’: Whither Free Speech?

    March 25, 2014

    An op-ed in the Chicago Tribune today by University of Chicago Professor Charles Lipson makes a great case for the importance of freedom of speech and open discourse on university campuses.

  • Brown University Committee Releases Initial Report on Ray Kelly’s Would-Be Speech

    February 21, 2014

    An official inquiry committee convened by Brown University has released a report that includes more details regarding what happened four months ago when hecklers at the university brought former New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly’s planned speech to a grinding halt.

  • FIRE Statement on Brown University President’s Letter to Brown Community

    November 6, 2013

    Today, Brown University President Christina H. Paxson sent a letter to the Brown University community regarding the October 29 cancellation of a lecture by New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. The letter, available in full on Brown’s website, makes a powerful argument for freedom of expression at Brown: I strongly believe that Brown must be… Read more

  • Three Reasons to Debate, Not Silence, Opposing Views

    November 1, 2013

    Today in The Huffington Post, Michael Meyers, executive director of the New York Civil Rights Coalition, shared a letter he wrote to the Brown University community about New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly’s policies and about Brown students’ preventing Kelly from speaking at the school Tuesday night. While expressing strong disagreement with Kelly’s policies, Meyers contrasted students’… Read more

  • Quinnipiac Administrator: Skimpy Nurse Costumes ‘As Offensive As Writing the “N-word” on a Blackboard’

    October 31, 2013

    Administrators at Quinnipiac University appear to have taken the crusade against insensitive Halloween costumes to a new level, according to an article in The Quinnipiac Chronicle: “Costumes that exaggerate, stereotype, generalize a particular ethnic culture [or] gender, [are] insensitive,” Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs and Chief Diversity Officer Diane Ariza said. This includes dressing up in “blackface,… Read more

  • At Brown, Free Speech Loses as Hecklers Silence NYPD Commissioner

    October 30, 2013

    Freedom of expression at Brown University received a black eye last night, as protesters chose to answer speech they dislike with volume rather than reason—a tragic outcome for a university expressly committed to the peaceful exchange of ideas. New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly was scheduled to deliver remarks yesterday evening to Brown’s Taubman Center for Public… Read more

  • It’s Free Speech Week, and Students Are Speaking Out

    October 21, 2013

    October 21­–27 is Free Speech Week, a celebration of Americans’ First Amendment right to free expression. You can celebrate by sharing information about constitutional rights with your friends, planning a free speech event, or even speaking your mind about the news of the day. Students especially should take this week to find out just how free speech is respected on their campuses and… Read more

  • ‘Brown Daily Herald’: Promote the Marketplace of Ideas

    December 4, 2012

    In a thoughtful, well-written editorial published yesterday, the Brown Daily Herald at Brown University calls on students to protect the marketplace of ideas on campus and to engage with each other in a real and meaningful exchange of viewpoints.  Echoing points we make all the time at FIRE, the editorial discusses the benefits of seeking… Read more

  • Brown University’s Sexual Misconduct Policy Threatens Fundamental Fairness

    March 19, 2012

    About a month ago, Brown Daily Herald journalist Hannah Abelow wrote about changes to Brown University’s sexual misconduct policy. Things aren’t looking good for justice at Brown. First, as Abelow notes, students who have alleged sexual misconduct are now allowed to appeal even if the accused is found to be innocent. Far from being a… Read more

  • Former FIRE Intern in ‘Brown Daily Herald’: New President Must Respect Individual Rights

    November 14, 2011

    In today’s Brown Daily Herald (Brown University’s student newspaper), Campus Freedom Network member and 2011 FIRE intern Oliver Rosenbloom pens an apt and well-written column outlining the importance of keeping students’ individual rights and due process issues in mind as Brown seeks a new university president. As Oliver points out, Brown’s embrace of due process… Read more

  • Due Process at Brown University? At All?

    October 11, 2011

    Last year The New York Times quoted me in a story about William McCormick III, a former student at Brown University who has sued Brown in federal court, claiming the university failed to give him even the minimal due process it promises in cases like his. According to McCormick, Brown basically just sent him home after… Read more

  • 2011 FIRE Intern Promotes Free Speech at Brown University

    September 7, 2011

    In an opinion piece published in The Brown Daily Herald today, Brown University junior and 2011 FIRE intern Oliver Rosenbloom makes principled arguments against restrictive speech codes and in favor of free speech on campus. Oliver writes: There is no guarantee that the campus orthodoxies of today will always hold sway. While conservatives used to… Read more

  • Brown University on Full Disclosure (or Lack Thereof)

    April 27, 2011

    Say you’re accused of a heinous crime. If one of the main witnesses against you—in a campus disciplinary matter with serious repercussions for your academic career as well as the rest of your life—just happened to have your accuser’s father as a career mentor, would you think that was relevant to disclose in a hearing… Read more

  • Brown University Students Unlearn Liberty

    February 15, 2011

    At Brown University, an act of political protest came to a disappointing end when students apparently opposed to the protest’s message simply removed it from view. The Brown Daily Herald reports: A banner reading "Corporate Criminals Run Brown" appeared on Wayland Arch [of Wayland House, a Brown dormitory] facing Wriston Quadrangle Friday evening, a day… Read more

  • The State of Free Speech on Campus: Brown University

    March 17, 2009

    Throughout the spring semester, FIRE is drawing special attention to the state of free speech at America’s top 25 national universities (as ranked by U.S. News & World Report). Today we review policies at Brown University, which FIRE has given a red-light rating for maintaining a policy that clearly and substantially restricts free expression on… Read more

  • Spring 2007 ‘FIRE Quarterly’ Now Available

    May 24, 2007

    Check out our latest, newly re-designed issue of The FIRE Quarterly, which contains news updates on FIRE events and victories in cases at universities across the country. Some highlights from this edition include a look at our victory at San Francisco State University (SFSU), where FIRE stepped in to defend SFSU’s College Republicans after the… Read more

  • Why Private Schools Need to Follow Their Own Rules

    April 18, 2007

    While Robert’s latest blog discusses the difference between public schools and private schools in relation to sectarian institutions, I’d like to discuss the dichotomy in more depth, especially in regard to the schools which Jon B. Gould mentions in his piece (subscribers only) in the Chronicle—Brown, Johns Hopkins, and Pace.   FIRE’s Guide to Free… Read more

  • Truly Fostering Debate

    March 9, 2007

    Emily Ghods, on The New Criterion ’s Armavirumque blog, posts about a recent luncheon featuring Brown Professor of Political Science John Tomasi. At the luncheon, sponsored by the Center for the American University under the Manhattan Institute, Professor Tomasi discussed the Political Theory Project, a center he runs at Brown, and his “effort at Brown… Read more

  • ‘The New York Times’ Looks at Middle East Controversies on Campus

    February 26, 2007

    Karen Arenson has an article in The New York Times this morning about the film “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West,” which she calls “the latest flashpoint in the bitter campus debate over the Middle East.”   The film shows anti-Western clips from Arab television programming and documentary footage of suicide bombers, at times… Read more

  • Victory at Brown

    February 1, 2007

    The Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) at Brown University was restored to student group status last week and has held its first on-campus meeting of the school year. The group was wrongfully suspended under dubious circumstances last September by Brown’s Office of the Chaplains and Religious Life (OCRL). In a press release issued today, FIRE wrote:… Read more

  • Victory for Religious Liberty at Brown University: RUF Reinstated

    February 1, 2007

    PROVIDENCE, R.I., February 1, 2007—Brown University has finally lifted its semester-long suspension of the Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) student group. As of last week, the RUF has been restored to its previous status as a recognized student group and held its first on-campus meeting of the school year on Sunday. Brown’s decision to reinstate the… Read more

  • Happy Holidays from FIRE

    December 22, 2006

    All of us at FIRE would like to wish our friends and supporters happy holidays. As universities wind down for winter break, students head home to their families, and we prepare for a restful holiday weekend, some students have plenty to celebrate. After a months-long wrongful suspension, the Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) at Brown University… Read more

  • RUF Initiates Re-affiliation Process at Brown

    December 4, 2006

    A few weeks back, FIRE reported that Brown University suspended the Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) without adequate explanation. Following Brown’s recent letter outlining the necessary procedure for gaining re-affiliation and the university’s statement vowing to “assist RUF in taking the necessary steps to have its affiliation restored,” the RUF has taken the first steps toward… Read more

  • Brown’s Rev. Cooper Nelson: Not Off the Hook Yet

    November 29, 2006

    While it looks like the Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) will be back on campus at Brown University sooner rather than later, it’s still far too early to let Brown—and more specifically, the Reverend Janet Cooper Nelson, Director of Brown’s Office of the Chaplains and Religious Life (OCRL)—off the hook. As Luke pointed out yesterday morning,… Read more

  • Brown University Agrees to Reinstate Suspended Religious Organization, But Concerns Remain

    November 28, 2006

    Brown University has promised to take the initial steps in helping the Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) gain reaffiliation with the University’s Office of the Chaplains and Religious Life (OCRL). A statement that Brown’s Media Relations office put up on the Brown website reads: The University welcomes the contributions RUF has made to the spiritual life… Read more

  • Brown’s Hypocrisy

    November 27, 2006

    Richard Zeller, a sociology professor at Kent State University, discusses Brown University’s suspension of the Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) in today’s Providence Journal. Specifically, Zeller analyzes Brown’s assertion that the RUF “had become possessed of a leadership culture of contempt and dishonesty.” After reviewing the facts of the case, Zeller concludes: A fair reading of… Read more

  • Brown University Takes Step Toward Lifting Suspension, But Problems Remain

    November 21, 2006

    Since FIRE’s press release last week on Brown’s suspension of the Reformed University Fellowship (RUF), the Christian Union wrote an excellent letter to Brown, The Providence Journal reported on the suspension, FIRE staff members have spoken about the case on numerous talk radio programs, and FIRE’s President Greg Lukianoff appeared on The O’Reilly Factor to… Read more

  • FIRE on ‘Up Front with Vicki McKenna’ Today

    November 21, 2006

    FIRE President Greg Lukianoff will be on Vicki McKenna’s Madison, Wisconsin radio show this afternoon at 4 p.m. ET to discuss our case at Brown University, where the Reformed University Fellowship has mysteriously been suspended from campus. You can listen online at wiba.com.

  • Watch FIRE on ‘The O’Reilly Factor’ Tonight!

    November 20, 2006

    The media continue to cover our case at Brown University. To hear the latest, tune in to the Fox News Channel at 8 p.m. ET, where FIRE President Greg Lukianoff is scheduled to appear on tonight’s episode of “The O’Reilly Factor.” The case centers on the suspension of a Christian student group for vague and… Read more

  • Why Are We So Afraid of Controversy?

    November 20, 2006

    According to an article in today’s New York Post, Brown University’s Hillel has rescinded a speaking invitation to Egyptian-born author Nonie Darwish after complaints from Brown’s Muslim Student Association. The Post’s Adam Brodsky writes:

  • Brown University Case in ‘The Providence Journal’

    November 20, 2006

    Today’s edition of The Providence Journal covers the situation at Brown University, highlighting our involvement there and explaining the ambiguity that surrounds the university’s reasons for suspending the evangelical student group, Reformed University Fellowship (RUF). The article states:  Leaders of the group say they were given different reasons for the action. At first, they were… Read more

  • FIRE on Rhode Island Radio to Discuss Brown University Case

    November 20, 2006

    Rhode Island Torch readers can tune into Talk Radio 920 AM-WHJJ today at 1:10 p.m. ET to hear FIRE Vice President Robert Shibley on the Howie Barte Show. Shibley will discuss FIRE’s recent case at Brown University, where one of the school’s largest religious student groups has been suspended without a clear explanation from Brown.

  • Mystery Shrouds Brown’s Suspension of Religious Student Organization

    November 16, 2006

    Today’s press release explains how Brown University suspended one of its largest and most active religious student organizations for reasons that remain unclear. The Office of the Chaplains and Religious Life (OCRL) suspended the evangelical Christian ministry of Trinity Presbyterian Church on September 13, 2006. OCRL Director Janet Cooper Nelson explained that she suspended the… Read more

  • Brown Suspends Religious Student Group Without Explanation

    November 16, 2006

    PROVIDENCE, R.I., November 16, 2006—Brown University has inexplicably suspended one of its largest religious student organizations. After offering shifting and unclear reasons for its decision, Brown ignored requests from Trinity Presbyterian Church’s campus fellowship for an explanation of its suspension. The student group finally sought help from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE),… Read more