Colby College

Location: Waterville, Maine
Type: Private
Federal Circuit: 1st Circuit

Tell Colby College to revise its speech policies by filling out this form.

Speech Code Rating

Colby 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.

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

Red Light Policies

  • Student Handbook: Harassment and Sexual Harassment Policy and Complaint Procedures

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: June 12, 2017


    Harassment is defined as unwelcome hostile or intimidating remarks, spoken or written (including, for example, e-mail, text messages, postings on electronic message boards, voicemail messages), or physical gestures directed at a specific person based on that person’s race, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, pregnancy, religion, age, ancestry or national origin, disability, military status, or genetic information.

    Because harassment results in loss of self-esteem for the victim and in the deterioration of the quality of the classroom, campus life, athletic, social, or workplace environment, the College prohibits harassment, including sexual harassment. Harassment by any student or by any employee of the College will not be tolerated. It also is a violation of this policy for any person accused of harassment to retaliate against any person who reports an incident of harassment. Students and employees should feel free to report such incidents without fear of reprisal.

    Sexual Harassment

    Sexual harassment is unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature. It can include sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, sexual violence and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when this conduct is unwelcome. When sexual harassment is sufficiently severe or pervasive that it denies, limits or adversely affects a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from the Colby educational experience, a student’s employment at Colby, or the employment of faculty or staff, then the sexual harassment creates a hostile environment. A single instance of sexual harassment can constitute a hostile environment. The College will investigate incidents of sexual harassment promptly and will take corrective action to prevent its recurrence and correct its discriminatory effects.

    » Read More

Yellow Light Policies
  • Student Handbook: General College Policies

    Speech Code Category: Posting and Distribution Policies
    Last updated: June 12, 2017

    Banners: Banners may be displayed in select locations on camps with prior approval of content and dates from the Office of Campus Life … Messages that can be construed as threats of emotional or physical harm toward an individual or group are not permitted.

    Chalking: On occasion, student organizations or individual(s) promote public awareness on issues and concerns by “chalking” various areas of the campus grounds. … Hate speech and/or messages that harass, as well as messages that can be construed as threats of emotional or physical harm toward an individual or group are not permitted.

    Violators will be subject to fines and/or disciplinary action, which could include sanctions for harassment and/or hate speech with penalties ranging from warning to suspension.

    » Read More

  • Student Handbook: General College Policies- Free Speech

    Speech Code Category: Policies on Tolerance, Respect, and Civility
    Last updated: June 12, 2017

    The right of free speech — which does not include a right to harass, injure, or silence others — is essential in an academic community and will be vigorously upheld.

    » Read More

  • Bias Incident Prevention and Response Team: What is a Bias Incident?

    Speech Code Category: Policies on Bias and Hate Speech
    Last updated: June 12, 2017

    As expressed in Colby’s Student Handbook, “Colby stands for diversity, for respect for various lifestyles and beliefs, and for the protection of every individual against discrimination. In the classroom and outside, there is freedom to study, to think, to speak, to work, to learn, and to thrive in an environment that insists upon both civility and the free and open exchange of ideas and views.”  Moreover, “[t]he right of free speech and the open exchange of ideas and views are essential, especially in a learning environment, and Colby College upholds these freedoms vigorously.”

    Colby College recognizes, however, that expressions of bias (“bias incidents”) may be harmful to individuals, groups, and/or the campus as a whole–even if these expressions fall within our community standards of free speech, and regardless of whether or not they constitute a direct violation of Colby College’s code of conduct.

    A bias incident is characterized as a behavior or act – verbal, written, or physical – which is personally directed against or targets an individual or group based on perceived or actual characteristics such as race, color, religious belief, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national or ethnic origin, disability, veteran status, or age.   Bias incidents may be engaged in intentionally or unintentionally.  Sometimes, we may express unconscious bias in ways that are harmful to others without realizing that we are doing so.

    Expressions of bias, or bias incidents, can take many forms, including:

    • Using verbal or written slurs or epithets
    • Using hate symbols
    • Defacing posters or signs
    • Telling jokes based on identity-based stereotypes
    • Treating a person or a group of people in a way that is motivated/informed by identity-based stereotypes
    • Avoiding or excluding others because of their perceived identities
    • Imitating someone’s cultural norms or practices.
    • Imitating someone with a perceived physical, cognitive, or psychological difference

    » Read More

  • Student Handbook: Student Conduct at Colby

    Speech Code Category: Policies on Tolerance, Respect, and Civility
    Last updated: June 12, 2017

    While it is impossible for the College to outline every possible form of unacceptable behavior, you should be aware that the following behaviors are strictly prohibited: … Physical or emotional intimidation and/or violence.

    » Read More

  • Code of Ethics for Information Technology at Colby College

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies
    Last updated: June 12, 2017

    Examples of misuse include, but are not limited to, the following: … Sending threatening messages or other material intended to harass.

    » Read More

Green Light Policies
  • College Tries to Block Public from Seeing its ‘Bias Incident Log,’ Fails Completely

    July 21, 2016

    By Staff at The College Fix Colby College tried to stop the public from reading campus reports of “bias incidents,” by password-protecting the “log” page… Read more here.

    » Read More
  • What Hillary Clinton and Colby College Have in Common

    July 21, 2016

    By George Leef at National Review Colby College has the dubious distinction of winning FIRE’s “Speech Code of the Month” award. Why? Read more here.

    » Read More
  • The AHA’s Double Standard on Academic Freedom

    March 1, 2006

    by David Beito, Ralph Luker, and Robert “K. C.” Johnson Perspectives (American Historical Association) Has the AHA turned its back on academic freedom? In January, members present at its business meeting rejected a resolution to condemn attacks on academic freedom, whether from the right or from the left. Instead, they passed a weaker resolution that selectively condemned only threats coming from the right.We weighed into this controversy as part of a three person “left/right” coalition for academic freedom. Our chances were slim and we knew it. Only in December did we learn that the AHA business meeting would consider a […]

    » Read More
  • Trumping Moses and Matthew

    November 7, 2005

    By Suzanne Fields at What do the Bible and the “The Vagina Monologues” have in common? Not much. But surely we can all agree that both are covered by the First Amendment, guaranteeing freedom of religion and freedom of expression. Well, that’s not so at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. At UWEC you can live in a dorm and watch a performance of “The Vagina Monologues,” but you can’t join a Bible studies group. Any resident assistant, or RA, as the live-in student counselors are called, can put on a performance of the play, and one has, but leading […]

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  • Consulting All Sides on “Speech Codes”

    May 1, 2005

    By David T. Beito, Ralph E. Luker, and Robert David Johnson, Organization of American Historians Newsletter Few controversies have polarized higher education more than that of Ward Churchill at the University of Colorado (CU). Many conservatives, including Governor Bill Owens of Colorado and Newt Gingrich, have demanded that Churchill be dismissed for characterizing the victims of 9/11 as “Little Eichmanns.” Professors and students at CU and elsewhere have responded with rallies and petitions to defend Churchill’s academic freedom. They emphasize that the health of the academy rests on the toleration of controversial, even repellant, ideas. Joining in, the faculty of […]

    » Read More
  • Colby College president: ‘My responsibility is to foster an environment on campus that supports free inquiry’

    June 12, 2017

    In an email to the college community this past Friday, Colby College President David Greene responded publicly to students who asked Greene why he did not sign a letter criticizing President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. In his message, Greene took a strong stand in favor of free speech at Colby, explaining his belief that taking an institutional stance on political matters would have a negative impact on free and open debate on campus: My responsibility is to foster an environment on campus that supports free inquiry, a broad exchange of ideas, and scholarly and […]

    » Read More
  • Speech Code of the Month: Colby College

    July 20, 2016

    FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for July 2016: Colby College in Maine. Colby’s Bias Incident Prevention and Response protocol encourages students to report on one another to the administration for a wide range of speech and expression. Not only that, but the college recently placed its previously-public “bias incident log” under password protection. When a college or university takes measures to hide information from the public, it usually means the school is doing something privately that it knows would not stand up to the glare of public scrutiny. Bias incident reporting systems have been around for years, […]

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  • The Retreat of the Public Intellectual

    September 22, 2006

    In the recent edition of the alumni magazine from my alma mater, Colby College, there’s an interesting article by government professor Paul Reisert about the cultural marginalization of academia. He writes, There was a time, not that long ago, when leading figures in higher education served as public intellectuals, addressing the vital issues of their day and receiving a respectful hearing from political leaders and the public at large. These days, if a professor from any field outside the hard sciences is being quoted in the media, odds are good that it’s for the purpose of ridicule. Reisert opines that […]

    » Read More