Case Western Reserve University

Location: Cleveland, Ohio
Type: Private
Federal Circuit: 6th Circuit

Speech Code Rating

Case Western Reserve 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.

At present, FIRE has not been involved in any cases at this school.

Red Light Policies

Yellow Light Policies
  • Student Handbook: Undergraduate Policies- Disorderly Conduct

    Speech Code Category: Policies on Tolerance, Respect, and Civility
    Last updated: December 2, 2015

    University community members are expected to conduct themselves in a manner that does not create disruptions or that does not involve unacceptable actions in regards to community, behavioral, and/or moral standards. Such conduct may include, but is not limited to the following: … * Obnoxious and anti-social behavior; * Lewd, lascivious, and vulgar behavior ….

    » Read More

  • Sexual Conduct at Case: University Policies- Sexual Misconduct Policy

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: July 28, 2017

    Sexual harassment is defined as any unwelcome verbal or non-verbal  sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, and/or conduct directed at an individual(s) because of gender when: …  Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably and objectively interfering with an individual’s work performance or educational experience or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work and/or educational environment. Such conduct generally involves more than one incident and must be severe, persistent or pervasive (or may be severe, persistent and pervasive).  Depending on the nature of the incident, more than one action or incident is typically necessary to constitute this form of sexual harassment.

    Acts that constitute sexual harassment take a variety of forms and may include but are not limited to the following unwelcome actions: …

    • Verbal expressions of a sexual nature, including sexual communications about a person’s body, dress, appearance or sexual activities; the use of sexually degrading language, name calling, sexually suggestive jokes, or innuendoes; suggestive or insulting gestures, sounds or whistles; sexually suggestive phone calls.
    • Sexually suggestive objects or written materials, such as social media, e-mail or internet communications, pictures, photographs, cartoons, text messages, videos, or DVD’s. …
    • Stereotyping or generalizing about a group based on gender. These types of comments typically constitute sexual harassment when associated with other sexual behavior or comments.

    » Read More

  • Student Code of Conduct: Proscribed Conduct

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: July 28, 2017

    3. Abuse, including but not limited to:

    a. Causing physical harm to others

    b. Verbal Abuse

    c. Behavior that is threatening

    d. Behavior that is intimidating

    e. Harassment

    f. Behavior that is coercive

    g. Behavior that endangers the physical or mental health or safety of any person

    » Read More

  • University Policies: Campus and Resources- Facility Use

    Speech Code Category: Protest and Demonstration Policies
    Last updated: July 28, 2017

    The university reserves the right to withhold from any individual or group the use of university facilities or service when, in the opinion of the university’s officers, such use is not in the best interest of the institution or may place the university in a position of legal liability, or when the individual or group has failed to settle debts for previous activities.


    University facilities and services may not be used for political fund-raising or to advocate a partisan position, and requests for their use will not be granted for activities which may cause the university to appear to be taking a position with regard to a public issue or a candidate for public office. This restriction also applies to the use of campus mail services, university mailing lists and labels, duplicating and printing equipment, and telephones belonging to the university.

    » Read More

  • Code of Student Conduct: Prohibited Conduct

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies
    Last updated: July 28, 2017

    Use of computing facilities and resources to send obscene or abusive messages.

    » Read More

  • Bias Reporting System

    Speech Code Category: Policies on Bias and Hate Speech
    Last updated: July 28, 2017

    A bias incident is any discriminatory or hurtful behavior/action directed towards an individual or group of people. It is based upon actual or perceived identity characteristics or background including but not limited to race, sex (gender identity/expression), color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, disability or sexual orientation. These acts may create hostile environment and have a negative social, emotional or physical impact on an individual, group or community.

    • Informing and connecting students to resources
    • Conducting ongoing assessments of campus climate
    • Institute a BRS that will:
      • Intervene in crisis moments
      • Act as an immediate support system
      • Provide referrals
      • Communicate information with campus partners
      • Document incidents
      • Create reporting structures that encourage accountability and ensure student concerns are heard

    » Read More

Green Light Policies
  • Case Western Reserve University Statement of Ethics

    Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression
    Last updated: July 28, 2017

    Universities seek to preserve, disseminate, and advance knowledge. At Case, as elsewhere, we recognize that to fulfill these purposes requires … the right to hold and express opinions different from our own.

    » Read More

  • Do campus tribunals wield too much power?

    March 13, 2006

    By John Higgins at The Beacon Journal A Summit County jury found Charles Plinton not guilty of selling drugs to a confidential informant in 2004. A few weeks later, a University of Akron disciplinary board found him “responsible” for “selling drugs to a confidential informant.” The difference between those two words — guilty and responsible — may not sound meaningful to the average person. But it’s a distinction that begins to explain the secretive world of college justice in which campus committees may re-try the facts of serious crimes after criminal courts have already decided them. Critics see the hearings […]

    » Read More
  • Speech Code of the Month: Case Western Reserve University

    August 2, 2017

    FIRE announces our Speech Code of the Month for August 2017: Case Western Reserve University. According to Case Western’s Posting Policy, “[p]osting of any derogatory, obscene, or offensive message, either explicitly or implicitly, is strictly prohibited.” If you haven’t been following FIRE’s work, you may wonder what is wrong with this. After all, no one wants a campus plastered with racial slurs and lewd pictures, right? But the reality is that what people subjectively find “offensive” goes far beyond the kind of harassment, threats, and obscenity that colleges and universities can legitimately regulate. Among other things, flyers that schools have […]

    » Read More
  • Judge Dismisses Student’s Title IX Claim Against Case Western Reserve University

    September 16, 2015

    In an opinion issued today, an Ohio federal judge dismissed a former Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) student’s Title IX lawsuit against the university. The student, who was expelled from CWRU’s medical school after the university found him responsible for sexual misconduct, alleged he was innocent and that bias against male students motivated the university’s erroneous decision. The court’s ruling is the latest in a recent line of cases suggesting accused students’ Title IX lawsuits cannot survive without concrete evidence of gender bias. The judge ruled the plaintiff had established “a plausible claim that [he] was innocent of the charges […]

    » Read More
  • College Attempts to Censor Student Columnist: Q&A with Andrew Breland

    June 8, 2015

    Meet Andrew Breland, a student journalist at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and a 2014 FIRE Summer Intern. Andrew laments that while Case Western claims to support free speech, it often compromises freedom of expression for the sake of “civility” and other vague, subjective notions that are too often cited to justify censorship. FIRE has written about this phenomenon extensively. Case Western’s lackluster support for free speech became most apparent to Andrew when he published a controversial column in The Observer, Case Western’s independent newspaper. His piece discussed the perceived disconnect between what visiting students and families are […]

    » Read More
  • Introducing FIRE Summer Intern Andrew Breland

    June 18, 2014

    Andrew Breland is a rising senior at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU), majoring in political science and English while simultaneously pursuing a master’s degree in political science. Andrew is the president of CWRU’s Pi Kappa Phi chapter and is a columnist for the The Observer, the university’s student newspaper. He has previously interned in the office of U.S. Senator Rob Portman. On coming to FIRE, Andrew writes: In September of my junior year, I published a column in our student newspaper that garnered attention from all corners of the university. Titled “Things Tour Guides Don’t Tell You,” it revealed some […]

    » Read More
  • Speech Code of the Month: Case Western Reserve University

    December 1, 2010

    FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for December 2010: Case Western Reserve University. Case Western’s “Use of University Facilities” policy provides that University facilities and services may not be used for political fund-raising or to advocate a partisan position …. This restriction also applies to the use of campus mail services, university mailing lists and labels, duplicating and printing equipment, and telephones belonging to the university. By its plain language, this policy prohibits any of Case Western’s recognized student organizations—which include Case Democrats, College Republicans of Case, Case Right to Life, Spectrum Gay-Straight Alliance, and Students for Justice in […]

    » Read More