Cornell University

Location: Ithaca, New York
Type: Private
Tell Cornell University to revise its speech policies by filling out this form.

School Summary

Note: Cornell is a uniquely hybrid public/private institution. While we list it as private, in some circumstances, it functions as a public institution.


Speech Code Rating

Cornell 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
C

Non-Sexual Misconduct

Read more
B

  • Event Registration Form

    Speech Code Rating: Yellow
    Speech Code Category: Protest and Demonstration Policies
    Last updated: April 26, 2018

    Events that must be registered using the EventReg form includes (but are not limited to): … Events that take place outdoors. … Events that may be seen as controversial and/or high risk. … Events should be registered at least three weeks prior to the start date. Student organizations may be fined fo... Read More
  • Student Organization Handbook: General policies for student organizations- Rallies

    Speech Code Rating: Yellow
    Speech Code Category: Protest and Demonstration Policies
    Last updated: April 26, 2018

    Many organizations use rallies on campus as forums to present views on campus, national, and world issues. Title One (Statement of Principles and Policies), Article III (Responsible Speech and Expression) of the Campus Code of Conduct outlines the university policy on responsible speech and expression. Rally organiz... Read More
  • Bias Reporting: What is Bias?

    Speech Code Rating: Yellow
    Speech Code Category: Policies on Bias and Hate Speech
    Last updated: April 26, 2018

    Under Cornell’s specific definition, a bias incident is action taken that one could reasonably and prudently conclude is motivated, in whole or in part, by the alleged offender’s bias against an actual or perceived aspect of diversity, including, but not limited to, age, ancestry or ethnicity, color, creed, disabili... Read More
  • House Rules

    Speech Code Rating: Yellow
    Speech Code Category: Policies on Tolerance, Respect, and Civility
    Last updated: April 26, 2018

    Behavior in common areas should conform to the standards of the community as a whole. Loud, offensive, or lewd behavior or language directed at anyone (including staff) is not acceptable. Residents should exercise good judgment and demonstrate consideration of others when using common areas. Read More
  • Campus Code of Conduct: Responsible Speech and Expression – Demonstrations not Involving Structures

    Speech Code Rating: Green
    Speech Code Category: Protest and Demonstration Policies
    Last updated: April 26, 2018

    Outdoor picketing, marches, rallies, and other demonstrations are traditional and legitimate forms of self-expression and dissent on campus. Such activities are allowed so long as demonstrators do not disrupt other functions, including, without limitation, regular and special curricular activities, extracurricular a... Read More
  • Campus Code of Conduct: Regulations for the Maintenance of the Educational Environment

    Speech Code Rating: Green
    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: April 26, 2018

    To harass another person by … by acting toward that person in a manner that is by objective measure threatening, abusive, or severely annoying and that is beyond the scope of free speech. Read More
  • Campus Code of Conduct: Responsible Speech and Expression- Disruption of Invited Speakers

    Speech Code Rating: Green
    Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression
    Last updated: April 26, 2018

    Because it is a special kind of community, whose purpose is the discovery of truth through the practice of free inquiry, a university has an essential dependence on a commitment to the values of unintimidated speech. To curb speech on the grounds that an invited speaker is noxious, that a cause is evil, or that such... Read More
  • Procedures for Resolution of Reports Against Students Under Cornell University Policy 6.4

    Speech Code Rating: Green
    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: April 26, 2018

    Sexual Harassment is unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other unwanted conduct of a sexual nature, whether verbal, nonverbal, graphic, physical, or otherwise, when the conditions outlined in (1) or (2), below, are present. … Such conduct creates a hostile environment. A hostile environme... 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

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

Non-Sexual Misconduct

B
14/20
  • 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
  • Cornell University: Student Group’s Sign Display Removed from Engineering Quad

    October 20, 2008

    A pro-life student group’s university approved signs were confiscated by an administrator shortly after students erected their display. The signs contained information regarding fetal development. The students were forced to turn to the university police in order to regain their property because the administrator could not believe the signs could be approved given their “content.”… Read more

  • In reversal, Cornell agrees to cover security fees for student events

    May 17, 2019

    Cornell University recently announced it will begin covering security fees for all events sponsored by student organizations. The university will pay for the first $8,000 in security fees incurred by any student event, which should fully cover the cost of those fees for the vast majority of such events. This welcome development at the Ivy… Read more

  • ‘Cornell Daily Sun’ comes out swinging against security fees

    March 1, 2019

    The Cornell Daily Sun’s editorial board published a powerful editorial this week asking administrators to abandon Cornell University’s event security fee policy. Last summer, FIRE intern Ben Lee sounded the alarm about the policy, which was then in the planning stages. He warned that “[i]f Cornell’s actual policy looks like its plans, Cornell risks taxing… Read more

  • Speech tariffs: Cornell’s impending security fees

    July 12, 2018

    Walking up the steps to Cornell University’s Kennedy Auditorium this past spring, I was expecting a larger crowd. Dick Cheney was invited to speak by the Cornell Republicans and there had been talk for weeks about large, organized protests to his presence on campus. But as I approached the door to the auditorium, I was… Read more

  • Cornell professors: ‘No viable alternative’ to free speech on campus

    May 9, 2018

    Author Cynthia Meyersburg is a psychology research fellow with FIRE’s ongoing Speech, Outreach, Advocacy, and Research (SOAR) project. She has a Ph.D. in psychology from Harvard University. This month, Inside Higher Ed published an opinion piece by Wendy M. Williams and Stephen J. Ceci with a message that resonates with me: “[T]here really is no… Read more

  • Cornell law professors stress importance of cross-examination and following institutional procedures in amici brief

    April 5, 2018

    Last week, 23 Cornell Law School professors filed an amici curiae (“friends of the court”) brief in Doe v. Cornell University, a case in which a Cornell student identified by the  pseudonym John Doe alleged that the university failed to follow its own written disciplinary procedures for sexual misconduct cases in order to deprive him… Read more

  • Professor rightly cautions Cornell on celebrating its FIRE due process rating

    September 12, 2017

    Last week, FIRE released our groundbreaking new report, Spotlight on Due Process, which rated the disciplinary policies of 53 top universities on whether they contained basic elements of fair procedure, such as the guarantee of a presumption of innocence, adequate notice of charges, and a right to appeal. What we found is that very few… 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

  • 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

  • Cornell’s Decorating Rules: You Can Put Up Anything You Want As Long As It’s a Snowflake

    December 16, 2015

    Cornell University’s Department of Environmental Health & Safety recently issued fire safety guidance for holiday decorations with sensible prohibitions against hazards such as “combustible decorations” and burning candles. Nothing to concern FIRE, one would think. But as one astute FIRE supporter recently found, restrictions on free expression can pop up in the strangest places. Sure… Read more

  • Cornell Approves New Speech-Friendly Outdoor Space Policy

    September 11, 2015

    Sometimes, no matter how much FIRE warns it in advance, it can take an ugly incident for a university to fully grasp the problems that arise from policies that unduly inhibit freedom of expression on campus. And FIRE has repeatedly warned colleges and universities that advance notice and permitting requirements for outdoor demonstrations, rallies, and… Read more

  • Cornell Students Forget Vandalism Is a Crime, Censor Pro-Palestine Display

    November 11, 2014

    Last month, Cornell University’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter placed 50 signs critically highlighting Israel’s relationship with and policies affecting Palestine in the school’s Arts Quad. It took only three hours for a student to attempt to censor the group by removing the display. SJP members managed to stop this student, but others… Read more

  • Cornell Conditions Student Group Funding on ‘Diversity and Inclusion Plan’

    May 12, 2014

    Cornell University’s Student Assembly (SA) has passed a resolution calling for scores of student organizations to demonstrate a plan to enlist membership that is demographically similar to the rest of the student body. According to Campus Reform, groups that do not submit a “Diversity and Inclusion Plan” will not be eligible for funding from Cornell’s Student Assembly Finance Commission (SAFC), which funds registered student groups on campus using mandatory student activity fees.

  • Cornell Becomes Latest College to Incorporate “Two-Tier” Disciplinary Process Following OCR Mandate

    April 27, 2012

    Yesterday, I discussed the ramifications of the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights’ (OCR’s) April 4, 2011, "Dear Colleague" letter for students at the University of North Carolina, which decided earlier this month to inaugurate a new "two-tier" disciplinary system to comply with OCR’s procedural mandates. Under the newly revised system, UNC students accused… Read more

  • FIRE Asks Cornell to Preserve Due Process

    April 11, 2012

    Yesterday, FIRE asked Cornell University President David Skorton to choose robust student due process rights over the weak evidentiary standard required by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR). In our letter, we argue that given the high stakes for students accused of sexual assault, they deserve much more than the "preponderance… Read more

  • Cornell Grad Urges University Not to Abandon Protections for the Accused

    April 10, 2012

    Cornell University graduate Mike Wacker has an excellent column in today’s Cornell Sun on the debate at Cornell over complying with the Department of Education’s April 4, 2011, "Dear Colleague" letter (DCL). As FIRE has pointed out, the DCL strips important due process protections from students accused of sexual harassment or sexual assault. Wacker hits… Read more

  • Cornell Professor Finds Himself in Hot Water–An Ironic Reminder of the Value of Due Process

    April 30, 2010

    Grant Farred, an English and Africana Studies professor at Cornell University, has found himself under fire recently following a comment he made to two graduate students at a conference in February. Following the conclusion of a conference panel to which he had invited the students, both African-American females, to attend, Professor Farred allegedly said to… Read more

  • Following President’s Statement, Cornell’s Religious Student Groups Should Brace for Disparate Treatment

    April 15, 2010

    Last week, I discussed Cornell University President David J. Skorton’s response to Student Assembly Resolution 44, which proposes to revise Cornell’s non-discrimination policy to restrict the ability of student groups to require that their voting members and leaders actually share the group’s core beliefs. The resolution, which passed the Student Assembly by a narrow vote… Read more

  • Cornell President Responds to Student Assembly Resolution Limiting Freedom of Association

    April 6, 2010

    Cornell University President David J. Skorton issued a response yesterday afternoon to a Student Assembly (SA) resolution, narrowly passed in February, that seeks to limit the ability of student groups to require that their voting members and leaders actually share the group’s core beliefs. He has asked the SA to reconsider important parts of the… Read more

  • Cornell Continues Befuddlement over Freedoms of Religion and Association

    February 22, 2010

    According to The Cornell Daily Sun, last Thursday the Cornell Student Assembly passed "Resolution 44," which, the Sun reports, mandates that "All students—regardless of color, ancestry, gender identity, religion and a variety of other characteristics and beliefs—can now vote and hold leadership positions in independent student organizations." While this sounds good on its face, FIRE… Read more

  • Former FIRE Intern John Cetta Speaks out for Freedom of Association at Cornell

    February 12, 2010

    Yesterday, Azhar wrote here on The Torch about the Cornell University Assembly’s (UA’s) decision this week to insert a new non-discrimination clause into the Campus Code of Conduct. As Azhar pointed out: Cornell has in the recent past used a non-discrimination rationale to deny a student organization, the Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship, the right to… Read more

  • Cornell University Assembly Votes to Pass Disputed Non-Discrimination Clause in Campus Code of Conduct

    February 11, 2010

    Cornell University’s University Assembly (UA) voted yesterday to include a disputed non-discrimination clause in the Campus Code of Conduct, the Cornell Daily Sun reports. The new clause, which expands the category of classes protected against discriminatory harassment on campus, provides insufficient protection for campus speech insofar as it applies a substantive standard for student-on-student harassment… Read more

  • ‘Cornell Daily Sun’ Explores Important Freedom of Association Issue, Previews Upcoming Supreme Court Decision in ‘Martinez’

    January 20, 2010

    An article in yesterday’s Cornell Daily Sun, a student newspaper at Cornell University, discusses the conflict between student organizations’ freedom of association and their schools’ nondiscrimination policies that has been at issue on many college campuses in recent years. Sun reporter Dani Neuharth-Keusch discusses the issue as it relates to an episode right on Cornell’s… Read more

  • How Students Made a Difference for Liberty in 2009

    January 6, 2010

    For the past few days FIRE has been looking back over our list of accomplishments in 2009. That list would not be complete without mentioning the students who have worked so hard to make their campuses more free. At the College of William & Mary, former FIRE intern and Campus Freedom Network member Braum Katz… Read more

  • In Pages of ‘Cornell Sun,’ Students Pen Strong Rebuttals to Misguided Editorial

    December 3, 2009

    Last week here on The Torch, I criticized the Cornell Sun for publishing an editorial that misunderstood the core importance of freedom of association and its integral relationship to freedom of expression. This week, I’m pleased to be able to highlight Cornell students authoring their own incisive critiques of the editorial in the pages of… Read more

  • ‘Cornell Sun’ Editorial Misunderstands Freedom of Association

    November 25, 2009

    A disappointingly misguided editorial in yesterday’s Cornell Sun argues that a recent vote by Cornell’s University Assembly to protect freedom of association on campus amounts to an endorsement of "discrimination." Unfortunately, The Sun‘s faulty reasoning reveals a meager understanding of the right to expressive association—a right protected by the First Amendment and decades of Supreme… Read more

  • Cornell Assembly Scraps Illiberal Policy – For Now

    November 23, 2009

    The Cornell University Assembly has voted to remove part of a proposed policy in the Campus Code of Conduct that posed a significant threat to freedom of association. The Cornell Sun reports: After months of deliberation, the University Assembly passed a resolution this October to remove a clause from the Campus Code of Conduct designed… Read more

  • Former FIRE Intern Encourages Reform at Cornell University in Letter to the Editor

    September 24, 2009

    2009 FIRE intern John Cetta has an incisive letter to the editor in today’s Cornell Sun responding to an article in yesterday’s Sun, "Panel Explores Free Speech and Religion." John contends that the debate over religious liberty is "far more significant" than a discussion in the campus chapel about abstract freedoms. It has to do… Read more

  • Rights in the News: Class Back in Session for Violators of Campus Speech

    September 4, 2009

    Classes are barely in session, and already FIRE and its allies have hit the ground running. As Luke noted earlier, Will was at Cornell University this week discussing the “Trojan horses” of campus speech codes, including the ones which have resulted in Cornell’s current “red light” rating on FIRE’s Spotlight. Read the Cornell Daily Sun’s coverage for more on the… Read more

  • Former FIRE Interns Criticize Ubiquitous Censorship at Their Universities

    September 4, 2009

    Two of this summer’s FIRE interns have started the year with a bang. Today, both published damning indictments of the state of free speech in higher education in general, and their own universities in particular. First, former FIRE intern John Cetta has an excellent article in The D.C. Writeup on free speech in higher education,… Read more

  • FIRE Speech at Cornell a Success

    September 3, 2009

    As I mentioned earlier this week, FIRE Director of Legal and Public Advocacy Will Creeley spoke at Cornell University on Tuesday night. Yesterday, The Cornell Daily Sun posted an article about Will’s speech. In his lecture to a packed room in Goldwin Smith Hall, Will talked about some of FIRE’s worst cases and the restrictive… Read more

  • Will Creeley to Speak at Cornell

    September 1, 2009

    FIRE’s Director of Legal and Public Advocacy Will Creeley will speak tonight at Cornell University. His lecture is titled "Liberty in Peril: Speech Codes on our Nation’s College Campuses." The speech will take place at 6:00 p.m. (ET) in G22 Goldwin Smith Hall. In addition to having a red light rating for its problematic free… Read more

  • Intolerance of Tolerance: Cornell University, A Model of Illiberalism

    August 6, 2009

    This blog entry was authored by John Cetta, a student at Cornell University and FIRE summer intern. Cornell University’s disdain for free speech, due process, and other fundamental rights has been well documented and frequently commented upon since FIRE’s founding. Eleven years ago in The Shadow University, FIRE founders Harvey Silverglate and Alan Charles Kors described the denial… Read more

  • Introducing FIRE Intern John Cetta

    June 16, 2009

    John Cetta is a senior at Cornell University where he is studying Industrial and Labor Relations. He is the managing editor and a staff writer for the Cornell University Pre-Law Journal, contributes to the Roosevelt Institution’s Equal Justice Center, is the treasurer of Cornell Coalition for Life, and is a representative on the University Assembly…. Read more

  • The State of Free Speech on Campus: Cornell University

    March 30, 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 Cornell University, which FIRE has given a red-light rating for maintaining policies that clearly and substantially restrict free expression on campus…. Read more

  • Weekly Media Round-up: National Media Takes Quinnipiac to School, With FIRE’s Help

    October 31, 2008

    The national media has officially descended on Quinnipiac University (QU), with FIRE’s early efforts to end the injustices visited on the Quad News and the QU chapter of the Society for Professional Journalists (SPJ) helping to pave the way. FIRE’s press release issued Wednesday helped to bring a new wave of attention to QU’s shoddy… Read more

  • Weekly Media Round-up: FIRE’s Defense of Satire and Political Expression on Full Display

    October 24, 2008

    Earlier this week, FIRE blogged and issued a press release about Lone Star College–Tomball’s threats against the school’s Young Conservatives of Texas (YCT) chapter for distributing a satirical and entirely protected "gun-safety" flyer. After pointing out the college’s exploitation of the tragedies at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois as a way to silence protected speech,… Read more

  • Cornell Engineering Dean Digs Deeper Hole over Confiscation of Pro-Life Display

    October 24, 2008

    Ivy League folklore has it that Cornell’s alma mater actually begins like this: Far above Cayuga’s watersThere’s an awful smell;Some say it’s Cayuga’s waters,Some say it’s Cornell. Folklore has a way of encoding a certain amount of truth, and I finally have figured out what this verse refers to: the stench of disdain for expressive… Read more

  • Cornell University Engineering Staff Remove Students’ Pro-Life Display until Police Force Return of Display

    October 22, 2008

    Breaking news out of Cornell this morning: two administrators from Cornell’s College of Engineering were forced by the Cornell Police to relinquish a student group’s pro-life display, which they had removed from the ground and confiscated entirely because of the content of the display. According to the Cornell Coalition for Life (CCFL) and its spokeswoman,… Read more

  • Cornell’s Hostility to Free Speech Hits a New Peak

    September 29, 2008

    The ongoing hostility to dissenting views at Cornell never fails to surprise. Most often manifested as hostility towards conservative newspapers on campus, censorship once again reared its ugly head yesterday as Cornell’s Student Assembly passed a resolution, which, according to the Cornell Sun campus newspaper, criticized The Cornell Review (a conservative student newspaper) for causing… Read more

  • At Cornell, Repressive Reform Proposals Tabled

    March 23, 2007

    Good news from Ithaca, New York—home of gorges, Professor Vladimir Nabokov, and, most famously, Cornell University.   Diligent Torch readers may remember that this past December, Cornell students and faculty were busy voicing their unhappiness with an official proposal for a dramatic overhaul of the university’s judicial code of conduct. Upon its release last April,… Read more

  • Cornell’s Repressive, Regressive Conduct Code Proposal

    December 15, 2006

    At Cornell University, students and faculty members alike are voicing displeasure with a proposal for a new Campus Code of Conduct. Last November, then-Interim President Hunter R. Rawlings III commissioned Barbara Krause, a senior advisor, to undertake a comprehensive review of the existing Code of Conduct and propose changes in an effort to recalibrate what… Read more

  • New President Spells Hope for Cornell

    January 23, 2006

    An article in The Chronicle of Higher Education today announces that David J. Skorton will become the new president of Cornell University. Skorton, currently the president of the University of Iowa, has made a name for himself as a defender of free speech and academic freedom. The Chronicle article says: At Iowa, Dr. Skorton has… Read more

  • More from Cornell

    October 28, 2005

    One of my first memories from college is hearing the dean of students at my alma mater refer to Cornell University as “that other school ending in -nell.” Given that, I probably shouldn’t be blogging on Cornell again so soon, but given the harshness of my last post, it seems the only fair thing to… Read more

  • Confused Cornell

    October 26, 2005

    Some FIRE fans are no doubt aware that our fearless leader, David French, used to be a lecturer at Cornell Law School. If this recent article in the Cornell Daily Sun is accurate, perhaps we should send David back to the lovely town of Ithaca, as the folks there seem utterly confused about what freedom means. Here… Read more

  • More on Viewpoint Discrimination

    April 6, 2005

    A FIRE friend replied to Greg’s post yesterday that had made the point that some of the disparity between liberals and conservatives in American faculties could be due to viewpoint discrimination. Our friend notes that he has been a math professor for many years and has participated in hundreds of hiring decisions and has not… Read more