Northeastern Illinois University

Location: Chicago, Illinois
Type: Public
Federal Circuit: 7th Circuit

Speech Code Rating

Northeastern Illinois 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.

  • Northeastern Illinois University: Suppression of Affirmative Action Bake Sale

    March 8, 2005

    At Northeastern Illinois University, administrators had warned the members of the College Republicans that both the students and the group would be punished if they held a campus protest against affirmative action. NEIU Dean of Students Michael Kelly e-mailed the student organization informing them that the protest would violate the school’s nondiscrimination policy. Dean Kelly wrote that “[v]iolating University rules can and will result in charges being filed,” and that “any disruption of university activities that would be caused by this event is also actionable….” FIRE wrote the school, demanding the group be allowed to stage their protest as it […]

    » Read More
Yellow Light Policies
  • University Policy G1.09: Sexual Harassment

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: April 5, 2016

    Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination when the conduct is based on an individual’s sex, gender, or sexual orientation. It includes any unwelcome advances, requests for sexual favors, or any verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when: … Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s employment or educational performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, offensive, or abusive environment for that individual’s employment, education, living environment, or participation in a University activity.

    Such misconduct includes but is not limited to: … speech that is nonconsensual or has the purpose or effect of threatening, intimidating or coercing (physically or psychologically) a person.

    Examples of conduct that may constitute sexual harassment include, but are not limited to:

    • Unwanted sexual statements – sexual or “dirty” jokes, comments on physical attributes, spreading rumors about or rating others as to sexual activity or performance, talking about one’s sexual activity in front of others, and displaying or distributing sexually explicit drawings, pictures, and/or written material. Unwanted sexual statements can be made in person, in writing, electronically (email, text/picture/video messages, instant messaging, blogs, social network sites, web pages, etc.) and otherwise. …
    • Textual/Electronic “sexting” (electronically sending messages with sexual content, including pictures and video) – sexually explicit language, harassment, cyber stalking and threats via all forms of electronic communication (e-mail, text/picture/video messages, intranet/on-line postings, blogs, instant messages and social network websites such as Facebook and Twitter).

    Sexually-related conduct forms the basis of a sexual harassment claim if a reasonable person, in view of all the surrounding circumstances, would consider it sufficiently severe, persistent, or pervasive as to interfere unreasonably with academic, other educational, or employment performance or participation in a University activity or learning environment.

    » Read More

  • University Policy I1.01.1: Acceptable Use of Information Technology Resources

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies
    Last updated: April 5, 2016

    Unauthorized uses (some of which may also constitute illegal uses) include, but are not limited to, the following:

    • Harassment
    • Libel, slander
    • Fraud or misrepresentation …
    • Downloading, displaying, posting, sending, viewing, printing, distributing or otherwise communicating pornographic material, absent a legitimate academic or research purpose …
    • Posting or sending material that is contrary to the mission or values of the University….

    » Read More

  • Student Code of Conduct

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: April 5, 2016

    A student is subject to University discipline for participating or conspiring in the following acts of misconduct.

    Lewd, obscene, or disruptive conduct, or racial/ethnic, homophobic or other legally prohibited harassment.

    Intentionally intimidating, impelling, threatening, or humiliating any member of the University community through conduct that violates the University’s Policy on Sexual Harassment.

    » Read More

  • Student Affairs: Bias Incident Reporting

    Speech Code Category: Policies on Bias and Hate Speech
    Last updated: April 5, 2016

    We have established a Bias Response Committee and reporting process with the intention to:

    • Support the personal identities of each community member and the exploration of each unique identity.
    • Serve as a place for students who may have experienced bias incidents to voice their experience.
    • Collect documentation on incidents as needed.
    • Provide recommendations for institutional policies and procedures as appropriate.
    • Ensure that appropriate University officials and other individuals, groups, or organizations are notified and consulted when a bias incident occurs, as appropriate.
    • Facilitate meaningful dialogue and make recommendations for educational intervention when appropriate.



    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 occurs whether the act is intentional or unintentional. Bias may contribute to creating an unsafe/unwelcoming environment. Bias incidents may take the form of, but are not limited to:

    • Graffiti or signs
    • Threatening voicemail, mail, email or message
    • Telephone harassment
    • Confrontation, physical or verbal
    • Verbal harassment, slurs or threats
    • Written slurs or threats
    • Threatening or harassing gestures
    • Physical injury
    • Damage to property
    • Advantages or disadvantages based upon identity


    » Read More

Green Light Policies
  • Student Code of Conduct

    Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression
    Last updated: April 5, 2016

    Northeastern Illinois University exists 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. As members of the academic community, students are encouraged to develop the capacity for critical judgment and to engage in a sustained and independent search for truth.

    » Read More

  • Fliers, posters may create problems

    January 14, 2009

    When it comes to campus safety, fliers and signs posted on college campuses might pose an issue for some universities. Northeastern Illinois University proposed a policy in November to require protesters to submit fliers, signs and/or posters to administrators two weeks in advance before bringing them on campus. The reason behind the policy was to help the university address security concerns and be aware of what was going on in the campus community. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) thought otherwise, and due to their participation, the university withdrew the policy from consideration earlier this month. FIRE is […]

    » Read More
  • The Chill Is Nothing New

    September 9, 2005

    There is a chill on campus, but that’s nothing new. For decades, campus speech has been chilled by speech codes and other attempts to prevent expression that might offend. Some would like to imagine that the excesses of “political correctness” are ancient history, but repression in the name of tolerance hasn’t gone anywhere. Oppressive speech codes are not only still around—they have actually multiplied, even after numerous court decisions declared them unconstitutional. Within the past year, college students have been punished for such things as expressing a religious objection to homosexuality and arguing that corporal punishment may be acceptable. Students […]

    » Read More
  • 10 great cigars and why I smoked them

    June 13, 2005

    By Mike Adams at For years, communism has been preventing me from enjoying a lot of good cigars. That used to bother me, until I found a way around the problem. As many of my readers know, there are more communists teaching on the average American campus than there are teaching in all of Cuba. And, of course, these communist professors do a lot of stupid things, most of which violate the United States Constitution. I have learned that fighting American communist professors is fun, largely because they are so easy to beat when challenged. That’s why I smoke […]

    » Read More
  • Baking With Fire

    April 18, 2005

    The enemies of campus bake sales are at it again, inflaming one another over the dire threat of cupcakes and cookies sold at different prices to whites, minorities, and women. The sales are political parody, of course, poking fun at affirmative action policies and trying to get a debate going. Campus orthodoxy holds that such policies are sacred and that any dissent, even in the form of satirical cookie prices, is illegitimate and deserving of suppression. When members of a Republican club staged a bake sale March 21 at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Mich., several students said they […]

    » Read More
  • Northeastern Illinois Professor Settles with University in Years-Long Retaliation Case

    February 13, 2014

    Last month, Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU) Professor Loretta Capeheart’s long-running legal battle against the institution for actions taken after her viewpoints clashed with the school’s finally ended when the two parties settled under confidential terms. As my colleague Azhar Majeed reported back in 2011, Capeheart alleged that NEIU retaliated against her defense of protesting students and her criticism of the university by denying her promotions and a faculty award. She also alleged that she was threatened with disciplinary action for her own protests against military recruitment on campus. Capeheart’s complaint included charges that NEIU violated her right to free speech […]

    » Read More
  • Victory for Freedom of Speech and Religious Liberty at Northern Illinois U; Political and Religious Organizations Finally Get Equal Treatment

    April 28, 2011

    After months of delay and pressure from FIRE, Northern Illinois University (NIU) has finally given political and religious organizations access to student activity fee funding. In 2010, NIU’s Student Association brazenly flouted Supreme Court precedent by discriminating against all such groups, maintaining extensive double standards, and denying recognition altogether to NIU Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) on two separate occasions. SSDP was first considered for recognition on October 24, 2010, as a “Social Justice, Advocacy, and Support” group because it advocates “that the War on Drugs is failing our generation and our society” and seeks “to reduce the harms […]

    » Read More
  • NEIU Student Government to Review Endorsement of Unconstitutional Free Speech Zone Policy

    January 19, 2009

    Ten days ago, Peter reported that a controversial and repressive “free speech zone” policy at Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU) has been withdrawn by NEIU President Sharon K. Hahs, who had first proposed the unconstitutional measure in November. As we have noted before on The Torch, the proposed policy was blatantly unconstitutional, demanding—among other things—a minimum of one week’s notice for NEIU community members wishing to hold events and demonstrations on campus, as well as prior approval over all materials to be displayed and distributed at such events. FIRE remains in touch with members of the NEIU faculty and Student Government […]

    » Read More
  • Rights in the News: Controversy at Southern Illinois Ignites FIRE’s 2009 Efforts

    January 16, 2009

    Southern Illinois University at Carbondale (SIUC) Chancellor Samuel Goldman and his administration have been a veritable one-stop shop for newsworthy content lately, as followers of The Torch this week are no doubt aware. In one of three articles penned by Adam Testa for the Southern Illinoisan, Goldman referred to FIRE as “embarrassing” SIUC into defending itself, as though its free speech crisis did not already exist, meanwhile having actually made FIRE’s requested change to SIUC’s protest policy. This prompted FIRE’s press release on SIUC’s doublespeak, to which Testa reported that the university will not respond. Goldman now asks for patience—but […]

    » Read More
  • Northeastern Illinois University Withdraws Proposed ‘Free Speech Zone’ Policy

    January 9, 2009

    A controversial and repressive “free speech zone” policy at Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU) has been withdrawn by NEIU President Sharon K. Hahs, who had first proposed the unconstitutional measure in November. In an e-mail sent on Tuesday, Hahs directed that consideration of the policy be halted: I am writing to request that the A and P [Administration and Personnel] Council and the Faculty Senate suspend their consideration of endorsement for the policy entitled “Policy Concerning Demonstrations on Campus, Distribution and Display of Visual Communications and Solicitation of Signatures on Campus,” conveyed to you on November 10, 2008. I also thank […]

    » Read More
  • NEIU’s Proposed Speech Code on ‘Inside Higher Ed’

    December 23, 2008

    Inside Higher Ed has an article today on proposed new speech restrictions at Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU). The proposed policy “would require protesters to submit copies of fliers and signs to administrators two weeks before bringing them on the campus.” As we mentioned last week on The Torch, the policy would also create a free speech zone on campus, limiting demonstrations to particular times and places. Asked about the proposed policy, NEIU President Sharon Hahs became the latest in a long line of university administrators to shamefully use the Virginia Tech shootings as a justification for impermissible restrictions on campus […]

    » Read More
  • Questions Surround Proposed ‘Free Speech Zone’ at Northeastern Illinois University

    December 19, 2008

    Deanna Isaacs of the Chicago Reader reports troubling developments at Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU), a public university in Chicago. According to Isaacs, NEIU President Sharon K. Hahs has proposed instituting an unconstitutional free speech zone on the NEIU campus, with prior approval requirements that put an impermissible onus on students and faculty members seeking to exercise their constitutional rights of assembly and demonstration. FIRE has not yet seen Hahs’ proposed policy, but if Isaacs’ description is accurate the implications are breathtaking: Proposed by university president Sharon K. Hahs, the Policy Concerning Demonstrations on Campus, Distribution and Display of Visual Communications […]

    » Read More
  • Speech Codes Don’t Get Enforced?

    October 15, 2007

    As Will discussed earlier, Florida International University professor Stanley Fish argues in his latest “Think Again” column for The New York Times that campus speech codes do not present as much of a problem for students as one might think. In the process of reviewing filmmaker Evan Coyne Maloney’s Indoctrinate U, Fish argues that any negative effects that speech codes may have on the state of free speech on campus is overblown because colleges will rarely, if ever, actually enforce their speech codes. Pointing to the fact that every speech code that has been litigated in the courts has ultimately […]

    » Read More
  • Article Highlights Partisanship of Campus Speech Codes

    September 29, 2006

    Former FIRE president David French has an article on speech codes on National Review Online today. He explains the “mental agility” of the 1960s free speech activists who have become the architects of today’s campus speech codes. David writes: Those who formerly glorified dissent clamp down on campus with a mind-numbing level of intellectual conformity. Scientific inquiry is welcome, unless it results in tough questions about possible innate gender differences. Open debate is the hallmark of the academy, unless of course that debate intrudes into areas where policy should be settled and morality decided (like when dealing with race, class, […]

    » Read More
  • Censorship is Everybody’s Problem

    December 29, 2005

    FIRE’s press release from yesterday details some of the cases that made 2005 FIRE’s busiest year ever. If 2005 made anything clear, it is that no student, regardless of his or her views, is safe from censorship on today’s college and university campuses. This year, we intervened on behalf of students censored for expressing viewpoints spanning the political spectrum: Seminole Community College in Florida refused to allow a student to distribute literature from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. After FIRE intervened, the college changed course and allowed the student to distribute her literature. Northeastern Illinois University decided to […]

    » Read More
  • FIRE Gets Results

    April 8, 2005

    Today’s FIRE press release celebrates a victory for free speech and expression at Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU), where students were threatened with punishment if they held an affirmative action bake sale protest. If you’re not familiar with these protests, we explain them in our press release, so take a look there. Unfortunately, the victory at NEIU is matched with a blow to free speech at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan, where students under pressure from the administration buckled and apologized for exercising their First Amendment rights. Most of those who read FIRE’s blog and follow our work are people […]

    » Read More
  • Bake Sale Battles Continue: FIRE Gains Victory at NEIU, Turns Sights on Grand Valley State University

    April 8, 2005

    CHICAGO, April 8, 2005—In a victory for free speech on campus, Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU) has decided to allow the College Republicans to hold an affirmative action bake sale protest on campus with “no preconditions.”  The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) received written confirmation of the change on Wednesday afternoon, less than 36 hours after publicizing NEIU’s unconstitutional threat to punish the College Republicans if they held the protest.  At the same time that NEIU changed course, however, FIRE learned that Grand Valley State University (GVSU) in Michigan was proceeding with plans to try the GVSU College Republicans […]

    » Read More
  • Professor Ross Takes NEIU to Task on Censorship

    April 6, 2005

    Yesterday, after receiving our press release about the attempt to stifle free speech at Northeastern Illinois University, a principled and eloquent advocate of free speech on campus, Professor David S. Ross, wrote to the president and administration of NEIU to get their side of the story. He copied a number of people, including the attorney who has been handling the case on NEIU’s behalf. This morning the attorney responded: Dear Professor Ross: If you feel compelled to do a mass e-mailing relating to FIRE, I would appreciate your courtesy in leaving my legal assistant off of you [sic] distribution list. […]

    » Read More
  • E-mail from NEIU Dean of Students Michael Kelly to Brian Geier, April 6, 2005

    April 6, 2005

    From: Michael Kelly [] Sent: Wednesday, April 06, 2005 3:05 PM To: ‘brian geier’ Subject: Bake Sale Dear Brian, I am confident that FIRE knows that NEIU proposed alternative methods for the College Republicans to communicate its message.  John Tait and I met again yesterday about a couple of matters, one of which was what I was able to learn further on bake sales as political commentaries.  He is aware that the club can hold its bake sale without pre-conditions.  We likewise discussed the value of informing potential customers of the primary intent of the activity so that they can […]

    » Read More
  • Affirmative Action Bake Sale Banned—Again

    April 5, 2005

    It’s “déjà vu all over again,” this time at Northeastern Illinois University, where administrators have threatened to punish the College Republicans if they hold an “affirmative action bake sale” satirical protest. (At these “bake sale” protests, students sell baked goods for lower prices to women and minorities to make a point about what they see as the unfair discrimination inherent in affirmative action policies.) Last year, FIRE defended students in similar situations at the University of California-Irvine, the University of Colorado-Boulder, and the College of William and Mary who, after FIRE’s intervention, were able to freely protest. The suppression of this type […]

    » Read More
  • Northeastern Illinois University Bans Affirmative Action Bake Sale, Threatens Protestors with Punishment

    April 5, 2005

    CHICAGO, April 5, 2005—Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU) has warned the members of the College Republicans that both the students and the group will be punished if they hold a campus protest against affirmative action.  The NEIU College Republicans canceled its planned “affirmative action bake sale” protest after NEIU’s dean of students warned them in an e-mail that to hold such a sale would violate NEIU’s “nondiscrimination” policy and expose the students to punishment.  NEIU, which allowed a feminist group to hold a similar “pay equity bake sale” protest on campus, is the latest in a string of schools nationwide that […]

    » Read More
  • FIRE Letter to NEIU Legal Adviser Mark Dunn, March 25, 2005

    March 25, 2005

    March 25, 2005 Mr. Mark T. Dunn Dunn, Stanczak, Willard, Arkell & Bugg 1001 North Main Street, Suite A P.O. Box 3488 Bloomington, Illinois 61702-3488 URGENT Sent via U.S. Mail and Facsimile (309-828-8321) Dear Mr. Dunn: Thank you for your timely response to our letter to Northeastern Illinois University President Steinberg.  We appreciate the NEIU administration’s willingness to engage FIRE on this topic.  However, FIRE’s stance remains unchanged: NEIU must allow the NEIU College Republicans to hold an “affirmative action bake sale” protest without interference from the administration, and must not permit any potential counter-protesters to exercise a “heckler’s veto” […]

    » Read More
  • FIRE Letter to NEIU President Salme Steinberg, March 8, 2005

    March 8, 2005

    March 8, 2005 President Salme Steinberg Northeastern Illinois University 5500 N. St. Louis Avenue B-159 Chicago, Illinois 60625 URGENT Sent by U.S. Mail and Facsimile (773-442-5070) Dear President Steinberg: As you can see from our Directors and Board of Advisors, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) unites leaders in the fields of civil rights and civil liberties, scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of liberty, legal equality, freedom of religion, academic freedom, due process, and, in this case, freedom of speech and expression on America’s college campuses.  Our website,, will […]

    » Read More
  • E-mail from NEIU Dean of Students Michael Kelly to John Tait, February 18, 2005

    February 18, 2005

    From: Michael Kelly [] Sent: Friday, February 18, 2005 2:35 PM To: John Tait Subject: Republican Club Bake Sale Dear Mr. Tait, As I was unable to reach you by telephone, the nature of my call is as follows: My office has been informed that the College Republicans are planning a Bake Sale in Village Square on Friday, February 25th where lower prices for baked goods will be charged to non-white, non-male purchasers as a commentary about Affirmative Action Laws.  Please be aware that, even if you plan to charge less to minority and female customers (as it was described to […]

    » Read More