George Washington University

Location: Washington, District Of Columbia
Type: Private
Federal Circuit: 1st Circuit

Speech Code Rating

George Washington 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 here.

  • George Washington University: Secret Informer Line

    May 4, 2002

    Students and faculty at the George Washington University (GW) continue to live under a nightmarish "Compliance Line" policy that invites secret allegations and investigations. The hotline, established in February 2002 and administered off campus by Pinkerton Security, allows charges of any nature to be made anonymously. The administration may then launch investigations and create secret dossiers, without even notifying the target or providing him or her with the means for immediate rebuttal of quite possibly malicious charges. When media attention was first brought to bear on this scandalous policy, GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg issued a public statement in which […]

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  • George Washington University: Violation of Due Process Rights in Sexual Misconduct Policy

    April 1, 2001

    George Washington University (GW) proposed a new sexual misconduct policy that lacked even basic provisions of procedural fairness. In a stunning and wholly appropriate blow to the university administration, GW’s faculty senate voted 15-0 to condemn a proposed sexual harassment code that virtually eliminated due process protections. The spirited discussion before the vote included references to FIRE and a resounding condemnation of Columbia University’s atrocious Sexual Misconduct Policy, which has now achieved the dubious distinction of demonstrating how serious charges should not be handled in a civilized community.

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Yellow Light Policies
  • Code of Conduct for Users of Computing Systems and Services 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies

    University computing systems and services may not be used in an obscene, harassing or otherwise inappropriate manner.

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  • Demonstrations Policy 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Protest and Demonstration Policies

    [T]he University maintains the right to define the time, place and manner in which demonstrations occur on its campuses and at its facilities. Individuals and organizations sponsoring demonstrations should contact Marvin Center and University Conferences, Mount Vernon Campus Life, or the Chief Academic Operating Officer/Virginia Campus, as appropriate, for information regarding compliance with University rules.

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  • Guide to Student Rights and Responsibilities: Code of Student Conduct- Disorderly Conduct 11-12

    Speech Code Category: Policies on Tolerance, Respect, and Civility

    Disorderly Conduct – Shouting or making excessive noise either inside or outside a building; verbally abusing University officials acting in performance of their duties; acting in a manner that annoys, disturbs, threatens or harasses others; disrupting obstructing or interfering with the activities of others; or behaving in a lewd or indecent manner.

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  • GW Housing Poster/Flyer Distribution Policy 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Posting and Distribution Policies

    To assure that: … Postings are not derogatory to any group.

    1. Posters/flyers must have clear evidence of a student group/organization sponsorship.
    2. “George Washington University” logo must be clearly displayed on the posters/flyers.
    3. Posters/flyers must be deemed appropriate under University policy and regulations.
    4. Posters/flyers should not be found in bad taste/blatantly offensive to any group on campus.
    5. Posters/flyers should not display any form of harassment.
    6. Posters/flyers cannot promote alcohol consumption and should be in compliance with university solicitation regulations.
    7. *** Posters/flyers may NOT be printed on orange paper as this color is reserved exclusively for emergency/UPD notices ***
    8. Posters/flyers advertising non-university sales or job listings will not be approved regardless of student organization sponsorship.
    9. Posters/flyers may NOT be palm card size.
    10. Students/groups must submit a copy of the posters/flyers to GW Housing.

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Green Light Policies
  • Catch FIRE President Greg Lukianoff in D.C., Chapel Hill, and Berkeley Next Week

    September 19, 2014

    FIRE President Greg Lukianoff will be on the move next week as he travels from campus to campus to promote free speech and First Amendment rights at America’s colleges and universities. On Monday, Greg will be participating in the Fourth Annual President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge National Gathering on the campus of George Washington University (GWU) in Washington, D.C. He will take part in a panel that will focus on the issue of religious liberties on campus and will be joined by Charles Haynes, the Director of the Newseum’s Religious Freedom Center. The panel will be moderated by […]

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  • Letter to Editor on ‘National Failure of Student Discipline Codes’

    April 1, 2013

    Illustration of Justice Scales – Shutterstock In a powerfully written letter to the editor of The GW Hatchet, a student newspaper at George Washington University, attorney Shanlon Wu calls into question whether students can receive a fair and accurate result from university disciplinary processes. Wu, a litigator with the Washington, D.C., firm Wu, Grohovsky & Whipple, draws upon personal experience representing university students to make a number of salient points. Among them:  Every day, students across the country face discipline code violations that can affect the rest of their lives yet the systems under which they are investigated, charged, tried […]

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  • Student Newspapers at George Washington, Rutgers Take Note of Their Institutions’ Speech Code Ratings

    September 7, 2010

    The student newspapers at George Washington University (GW) and Rutgers University have reported on FIRE’s Spotlight ratings for the speech codes at their respective institutions. A September 2 article in The GW Hatchet, an independent student newspaper at GW, discusses the university’s yellow-light rating in Spotlight. As the article points out, there are three policies that earn GW this rating: a “Disorderly Conduct” policy, a policy on “Demonstrations,” and a policy on “Poster/Flyer Distribution.” With regard to the Disorderly Conduct policy, which in relevant part prohibits “acting in a manner that annoys, disturbs, threatens or harasses others,” the article notes: […]

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  • Common Sense Saves GW Production of ‘Quills’

    February 10, 2009

    Yesterday’s issue of the GW Hatchet, an independent student newspaper at George Washington University, reports a troubling controversy—albeit one that seemingly has come to a proper conclusion. The controversy arose when a new student theater group, called The Company, sought to mount a production of Doug Wright’s play Quills at GW. As Matthew Rist summarizes in the Hatchet: “’Quills’ is an award-winning production set in 18th-century France that tells a fictional story of the last days of aristocrat Marquis de Sade, who was notorious for his pornographic novels and sadomasochism.” In one scene, Quills contains full-frontal nudity, a matter student […]

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  • After ‘DeJohn,’ Time to Revisit Sexual Harassment Policies Nationwide

    September 23, 2008

    George Washington University (GW) law professor John Banzhaf points out that GW’s sexual harassment policy is: very similar to one just found unconstitutional in a very recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit. The court struck down a very similar policy at Temple University even before it was applied in a specific situation. This follows several similar court decisions which suggest that rules limiting sexually harassing speech in workplaces cannot be applied to student speech in public universities. Although GW is a private university, Banzhaf makes very good points about university sexual harassment policies in […]

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  • George Washington University Badgers Innocent YAF Students

    October 12, 2007

    Randy Hall at the Cybercast News Service has it right: “GWU Punishes Victims.” The “victims” to whom the title alludes are the members of the George Washington University student chapter of Young America’s Foundation (YAF), which was parodied in flyers posted around campus by non-YAF students who have admitted posting the flyers. The clearly satirical flyers read, “HATE MUSLIMS? SO DO WE” and implied that YAF had authorized the flyers (although reading the whole flyer makes it obvious that YAF was not the author). But now a GWU official is badgering YAF, the group says, to draft a statement which […]

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  • Police State U

    October 18, 2005

    Check out “Keeping a Close Watch on Students” on Inside Higher Ed. It tells only the latest story of universities’ encroachment into students’ lives, this time at the University of Rhode Island: About 150 students rallied Monday in protest of university policy changes that will allow students who live off-campus—as a majority do—to be referred to the university judicial system for things that happen outside campus borders. This is not new. I have received reports of universities with ever more invasive polices for years and, as the article notes, “Rhode Island officials noted that most of the university’s peer institutions […]

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  • Rudeness Police

    September 21, 2004

    Beware of GW’s new rudeness police; they may be investigating you. Suppose you’ve left GW for the day and are working at an office in a private building off campus. Suddenly someone you don’t know, and who has no connection to GW, barges in. You tell him to leave, and he does. You go back to work, and figure everything is over. But you’re wrong. Months later you learn this person has filed a complaint against you with the University. As a result, you are requested by a high-level GW administrator to submit to a 30-minute interrogation to determine whether, […]

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  • FIRE Letter to George Washington University

    April 30, 2001

    Dear Professors and Faculty Senators, The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education unites civil rights and civil liberties leaders, scholars, public intellectuals, and journalists across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of liberty, academic freedom, legal equality, free speech, freedom of religion, and, in this case, due process and fundamental fairness on America’s college campuses. Our web page,, will give you a fuller sense of our identity and activities. The faculty members of an institution of higher learning have a solemn obligation to pass along to the next generation a university at least as free, humane, and decent […]

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  • Faculty Senate Meeting Minutes, April 13, 2001

    April 13, 2001

    GW Faculty Senate Minutes   Attached Files GW Faculty Senate Minutes, April 13, 2005, PDF, 2.2 MB , GW Faculty Senate Minutes

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