Clemson University

Location: Clemson, South Carolina
Type: Public
Federal Circuit: 4th Circuit

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Speech Code Rating

Clemson 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.

  • Clemson University: Student Charged with Harassment and Disorderly Conduct for Single Email

    May 24, 2010

    Clemson student William Kirwan was charged with “Disorderly Conduct,” “Harassment,” “Failure to Comply with Official Request,” and “Computer Misuse” after he told Clemson administrator Laura McMaster via email that “I’m not going to let you bully the organization into doing the things you want us to do or perceive as important” with regard to his group’s choice not to participate in a student organization fair, and joked that she was “smoking crack.” FIRE wrote Clemson president James F. Barker on May 24, 2010, to remind him that Kirwan’s speech was protected by the First Amendment. Clemson dropped all charges against […]

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  • Clemson University: Restrictions on Contacting Public Officials

    January 15, 2010

    On January 12, 2010, Clemson employees received an email telling them that they were prohibited from contacting public officials without prior arrangement of and notification by Clemson officials. FIRE contacted president James F. Barker on January 15, noting that the content of the email misrepresented Clemson’s “Contacting Public Officials” policy and violated employees’ First Amendment right to petition public officials. Shortly after receiving FIRE’s letter, Clemson sent another email to its employees making it clear that individuals are free to contact public officials when they are not on university business, and signaling that faculty members’ contacts with public officials as […]

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  • Clemson University: Free Speech Zone Suspended

    November 13, 2006

    Clemson University has vowed to review its “free speech zone” policy and, until a new policy is instituted, has opened its entire campus to free speech. Clemson has also cleared the Clemson Conservatives student organization of its charges for violating the “free speech zone” policy. Clemson decided to reassess its restrictions on free assembly after FIRE, working with the Clemson Conservatives, contended that the university’s “free speech zones” were both unlawful and immoral.

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Red Light Policies

  • Anti-Harassment and Non-Discrimination Policy

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: November 7, 2018

    Sexual harassment is unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature. It includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, nonverbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature including sexual violence.

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Yellow Light Policies
  • Student Code of Conduct: University Posting

    Speech Code Category: Posting and Distribution Policies
    Last updated: November 7, 2018

    No student or student organization shall post flyers, posters, banners or any other material without prior approval from a University official.

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  • Student Code of Conduct: Computer Misuse

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies
    Last updated: November 7, 2018

    No student shall send abusive, obscene, or threatening messages by use of computing facilities and services … or send, without official University authorization, for-profit messages, chain letters, or other unsolicited communications.

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  • Student Code of Conduct: Harassment

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: November 7, 2018

    No student shall commit any act, verbal or physical, which has the intent or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s or group’s educational or work performance at Clemson University or which creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive educational, work, or living environment.

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  • Anti-Harassment and Non-Discrimination Policy

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: November 7, 2018

    In general, harassment is unwelcome verbal or physical conduct, based upon race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender, national origin, age, disability, status as a military veteran or protected activity (e.g., opposition to prohibited discrimination or participation in the statutory complaint process), that unreasonably interferes with the person’s work or educational performance or creates an intimidating or hostile work or educational environment. Examples may include, but are not limited to, epithets, slurs, jokes or other verbal, graphic or physical conduct.

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Green Light Policies
  • Student Code of Conduct: Purpose

    Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression
    Last updated: November 7, 2018

    Academic institutions exist for the transmission of knowledge, the pursuit of truth, the development of students and the general well-being of society. Free inquiry and free expression are indispensable to the attainment of these goals.

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  • Facility Use Policy: Speech and Assembly

    Speech Code Category: Protest and Demonstration Policies
    Last updated: November 7, 2018

    Although prior registration of demonstrations and protests by students, faculty, or staff or affiliated groups is not mandatory, it is strongly recommended. Prior registration and planning ensures that the desired space will be available on the appropriate date and time. Prior registration should be handled in accordance with the provisions set forth in section 2.5 above.

    Nothing in this policy is intended to infringe upon any legal rights regarding freedom of speech. Application of the policy shall not be arbitrary or capricious and shall not be based upon the content of the proposed speech and nothing in this policy shall be interpreted in such a way as to discriminate on the basis of political, religious, social or other content.

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  • Protesters Question Clemson Policy

    September 2, 2016

    By Mike Eads at Greenville Online CLEMSON UNIVERSITY – About two dozen Clemson students turned out Friday to protest against university’s rules governing outsider access to campus audiences. The protesters displayed homemade signs with the word “Prayer” on them and said community minister Robby Roberts should have the same privilege… Read more here.

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  • Students, Lawmakers Push to Ban Restrictive Campus ‘Free Speech Zones’

    August 30, 2016

    By Jillian Kay Melchior at Heatstreet As the semester begins, a viral video has renewed debate about so-called “free speech zones” on college campuses… Read more here.

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  • Ten Colleges And Universities Where Free Speech is in Danger

    June 20, 2016

    By Kelly McDonald at The Daily Caller  These popular schools all have one thing in common: they use vaguely-worded policies to prevent the free exchange of ideas, according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). Below are ten colleges and universities that FIRE has designated “red light” schools. “A red light university has at least one policy that both clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech,” FIRE explains… Read more here.

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  • Jefferson Muzzles go to 50 Colleges and Universities

    April 20, 2016

    By Eugene Volokh at The Washington Post The Thomas Jefferson Center (with which I’m involved as a member of the board of trustees) has just released its yearlyJefferson Muzzles, so I thought I’d pass along the center’s explanation of who the “winners” are this year. Note that the Ccnter supports academic freedom and free speech broadly, and not just those aspects that are legally protected by the First Amendment; so you’ll see many private institutions mentioned here, even though the First Amendment as such does not restrict private entities, as well as the public institutions to which the First Amendment applies… Read […]

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  • Students Petition Clemson to Eliminate Speech Restrictions

    March 22, 2016

    By Peter Fricke at Campus Reform  Several conservative student groups at Clemson University are banding together to demand that the school revise speech policies that they say violate the First Amendment. Read more here.

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  • Celebrate ‘Free Speech Week’ — Speak Up, Speak Out!

    October 23, 2015

    By Gene Policinski at The Quad-City Times It’s Free Speech Week 2015 — and a major debate over free speech has just broken out. Thanks to the First Amendment, we are free to compliment, cajole, deny or decry. And if you’re looking for something immediate that calls out for more free and unfettered discussion, join this newest national debate over anonymous speech on the Web. On Wednesday, a coalition of women’s and civil rights groups announced a campaign to pressure colleges, through the U.S. Department of Education, to go on the offensive — pardon that reference — against anonymous social media […]

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  • Professors Warn Of ‘Thought Police’ But Outnumbered By Peers

    February 12, 2015

    By Bob Kellogg at A number of professors at a South Carolina university apparently want to ban hateful free speech on social media. More than 100 Clemson University faculty and staff signed their names to a school newspaper ad denouncing “hateful statements” on Facebook, Twitter and an app called Yik Yak. Three other professors, meanwhile, are demanding free-speech rights (see photo below) in their own ad. A student group created the ad to demand “diversity training;” more funding for “under-represented” groups on campus; and construction of a multi-cultural center, among other demands. Robert Shibley of the Foundation for Individual […]

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  • USC, Clemson Policies Threaten Students’ Free-Speech Rights, Group Contends

    September 19, 2012

    While students are getting their higher education, they might want to watch what they say while they’re on campus. The University of South Carolina and Clemson University have rules or policies that violate or could violate the First Amendment, says the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a nonprofit organization that rates large U.S. colleges and universities on how they adhere to the rights of free speech, assembly, press, petition and religion. In a study released earlier this year, FIRE, an educational foundation in Philadelphia, examined speech codes, harassment policies and other rules at the two South Carolina universities. […]

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  • Students challenge Clemson’s free speech policies

    November 18, 2006

    The Sun News   A group of students are challenging Clemson University’s use of free speech areas, saying they infringe on the students’ civil rights.Clemson Conservatives were censured by the university in connection with an Oct. 30 protest that they held outside the areas. The group held a protest Friday to get signatures for a petition opposing the university’s policies. Clemson officials said they are working on revisions to the policy and hope to have them ready by Jan. 1 for review by students, faculty and staff. “No public university should have the right to restrict, limit, or abridge this […]

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  • DOJ Findings Letter to UNM Exacerbates an Already Significant Problem with University Speech Codes

    April 28, 2016

    As has been covered extensively on The Torch by my colleagues, the Department of Justice (DOJ) significantly harmed free speech on college campuses recently with its findings letter to the University of New Mexico (UNM) concluding an investigation into the university’s policies and practices regarding sex discrimination. Unfortunately, DOJ’s letter doesn’t just create a new problem, nor is its impact limited to UNM’s campus. Rather, the letter adds to the already prevalent problem of colleges and universities throughout the country, under federal guidance, adopting overbroad definitions of sexual harassment in their policies and jeopardizing student and faculty free speech rights […]

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  • Speech Code of the Month: Clemson University

    April 14, 2016

    FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for April 2016: Clemson University. At Clemson, sexual harassment is defined as “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature,” including “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, nonverbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature . . . .” This definition includes a vast amount of protected speech, as a single joke or comment that someone subjectively finds to be unwelcome “verbal . . . conduct of a sexual nature” would fall under its breadth. As such, the policy is a clear violation of students’ rights under the First Amendment, […]

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  • Faculty Focus: How Three Professors Banded Together to Beat Back a Free Speech Threat at Clemson

    December 28, 2015

    In late 2014, members of Clemson University’s Coalition of Concerned Students (CCS) were setting the stage for what would become a louder drumbeat of campus protests over allegedly racially insensitive behavior. Their list of demands, presented to Clemson administrators in an effort to rectify perceived racial inequality on campus, were among the first in the recent wave of such demands to be presented by students to administrators at dozens of colleges nationwide. But among the students’ seven demands—which included requests for increased affirmative action, the creation of a multicultural center as a “safe space” for minority students, and diversity training […]

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  • Debate Over ‘Hateful’ Speech Heats Up at Clemson University

    January 30, 2015

    Motivated by recent race-related controversies on campus, a group of Clemson University students has issued a list of demands to the university administration. While dozens of professors have publicly supported the demands, other faculty and students strongly disagree that the university should take action against students for “hateful statements” or for participating in a gang-themed party last semester. Members of the Clemson chapter of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity hosted a so-called “Cripmas” party off campus in December. Following complaints that the party theme was racist, the chapter suspended its activities, and many officers resigned. University president Jim Clements emailed […]

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  • Florida Atlantic University (Also) Demands Details of Students’ Sex Lives

    November 19, 2014

    Back in September, I wrote on The Torch about a Title IX training program for students developed by CampusClarity and adopted by nearly 200 colleges and universities nationwide that included questions about the details of students’ sex lives. Clemson University, where the program was mandatory, suspended its program soon after students and media outlets objected to this invasion of privacy. Now students at Florida Atlantic University (FAU) are speaking out against the same survey, which they must complete before registering for classes. WPTV (West Palm Beach, Fla.) relayed some of the questions included in the survey: How many times have […]

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  • Nearly 200 Colleges Use the Same Questionable Survey Clemson Did

    September 22, 2014

    It looks like Clemson University isn’t the only school demanding that students divulge the details of their sex lives. After Campus Reform’s Kaitlyn Schallhorn brought attention to some shockingly personal questions included in Clemson’s mandatory Title IX training course, Clemson suspended its program. (The survey included questions about how many times students had had sex in the past three months, and with how many people.) But The Huffington Post dug deeper and found that Clemson is far from alone in invading its students’ privacy in this manner: In a call with The Huffington Post, [program creator] CampusClarity said that in […]

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  • Clemson University Suspends Inquiry into Students’ Sex Lives

    September 18, 2014

    How many times have you had sex in the last three months? Just kidding—The Torch doesn’t want to know. But Clemson University did. Campus Reform’s Kaitlyn Schallhorn reported last night that the public South Carolina institution asked its students for this deeply personal information and other statistics of their sex lives as part of a mandatory—yes, mandatory—“Title IX and Campus SaVE Act education program” run through a third-party site. Understandably, students speaking to Campus Reform felt the details of their sex lives were none of Clemson’s business. Schallhorn reports that Clemson attempted to justify its intrusion in an email sent […]

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  • ‘Washington Post’ Writer Concurs With FIRE on Clemson Case

    June 2, 2010

    Washington Post education writer Valerie Strauss writes approvingly of FIRE’s recent victory for free speech at Clemson University at her Post blog The Answer Sheet, describing the incident sparking FIRE’s involvement as “another in a long list of overreactions by school officials to young people saying things in a way others would rather they didn’t.” Strauss, who brought national attention to Isaac Rosenbloom’s case at Hinds Community College on her blog, now neatly sums up the facts of Clemson student Wil Kirwan’s case, which arose from an e-mail exchange with an administrator over whether or not his student group would participate in […]

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  • Clemson student charged for rude e-mail

    June 1, 2010

    Here’s another in a long list of overreactions by school officials to young people saying things in a way others would rather they didn’t. I recently wrote about a case at Hinds Community College, the largest such institution in Mississippi, where an adult student was charged with “flagrant disrespect” for uttering a curse word after class. The charges were eventually dropped but not before the student was forced to testify at a hearing. Now we turn to Clemson University in South Carolina, where a student got in trouble for using rude language in e-mails to an administrator during an online […]

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  • Victory: Clemson Drops All Charges Against Student Accused of ‘Disorderly Conduct’ for E-Mail

    May 26, 2010

    CLEMSON, South Carolina, May 26, 2010—Clemson University has withdrawn “disorderly conduct,” “harassment,” and two other charges against a student who e-mailed an administrator using “language and tone” that another administrator found “unacceptable.” After undergraduate William Kirwan was charged with a variety of offenses in violation of his First Amendment rights, he turned to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help. “Public university administrators cannot punish students simply because they disapprove of their ‘language and tone,’” said FIRE Vice President Robert Shibley. “We commend Clemson’s leadership for putting an end to this violation as soon as FIRE brought […]

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  • Clemson University Clarifies Ban on Freely Contacting Public Officials after FIRE Intervenes

    January 21, 2010

    After Clemson University told faculty members and all other employees that they could not contact public officials without prior arrangement by and notification of Clemson officials, FIRE wrote the public university a letter pointing out that this misguided regulation violated individuals’ First Amendment right to petition public officials. Following receipt of FIRE’s letter, the university has provided a clarification of the policy. Clemson has now made clear that individuals are free to contact public officials when they are not on university business, and signaled that faculty members’ contacts with public officials as part of their academic work are not subject […]

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  • FIRE’s Shibley Speaks at Clemson

    March 2, 2007

    Clemson University’s student newspaper The Tiger reports this morning on FIRE Vice President Robert Shibley’s recent appearance on the Clemson campus. Robert addressed a group of Clemson students and administrators on Tuesday night, speaking about FIRE’s opposition to free speech zones at the university and larger concerns about freedom of speech on public campuses.   FIRE intervened at Clemson in November, 2006, when the Clemson Conservatives were barred from holding a protest outside Clemson’s free speech zone. FIRE wrote to Clemson President James Baker reminding him that a public university campus cannot lawfully quarantine free speech to small, inconvenient areas […]

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  • Zoning Out Free Speech at Joliet Junior College

    January 4, 2007

    Last week, the Daily Southtown (Ill.) published an editorial criticizing the trustees of Joliet Junior College for adopting a new free speech zone policy. Although the new policy seems to be improved because it moves these zones closer to where students actually gather, the editorial board rightly questions why the policy wasn’t completely abolished. The editorial correctly notes that “designating a ‘zone’ and setting up rules for how to use it doesn’t encourage free speech, it limits and discourages it.” Free speech zones are nothing more then a ruse used by college administrators to suppress the free exchange of ideas. […]

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  • Clemson exonerates student group, will review policy on ‘free-speech zones’

    December 4, 2006

    There’s been a major First Amendment victory for students at a prestigious university in South Carolina, where a conservative student group has been absolved of charges stemming from its protest of a pro-homosexual event on campus. Clemson University had a policy that designated only two areas on the campus for students to assemble. Even within those areas, students were required to obtain permission from three different administrative offices 72 hours prior to any planned event. However, after the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) sent a letter to the school, arguing the policy—in violation of the U.S. Constitution—made spontaneous […]

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  • Victory at Clemson University

    November 29, 2006

    Yesterday’s press release highlights Clemson University’s recent decision to temporarily abandon its “free speech zone” policy, encoded within the Sales and Solicitation Policy, which quarantines student assembly to Cox Plaza and Hendrix Plaza, two areas of Clemson’s vast campus.   The Clemson Conservatives student group waged war against the “free speech zone” after they were prohibited from protesting the Clemson Gay-Straight Alliance’s (CSGA’s) rally in support of gay marriage. The Conservatives oppose gay marriage and wanted to protest the CSGA’s efforts in front of the CSGA meeting in Daniel Auditorium—an area outside the “free speech zone.” Despite being denied permission […]

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  • Victory for Free Speech: Clemson University Abandons ‘Free Speech Zone’ Policy

    November 28, 2006

    CLEMSON, S.C., November 28, 2006—Clemson University has vowed to review its “free speech zone” policy and, until a new policy is instituted, has opened its entire campus to free speech. Clemson has also cleared the Clemson Conservatives student organization of its charges for violating the “free speech zone” policy. Clemson decided to reassess its restrictions on free assembly after the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), working with the Clemson Conservatives, contended that the university’s “free speech zones”  were both unlawful and immoral. “We are extremely pleased that Clemson has realized that its policies restricting free assembly were out […]

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  • An open letter to Clemson University

    October 13, 2006

    Dear Clemson: Today, I write to you in regards to an issue of the most supreme efficacy. You see, we as a University, residing in one of the last refuges of individual liberty-the great state of South Carolina-have an obligation to uphold the virtues of this legacy. While other states fall prey to progressive measures at their institutions of learning in hopes of achieving a better public image and creating an air of political correctness, Clemson University has displayed immunity from such a plague of despotism. Therefore, take this letter not as an attack on the University itself, but more […]

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