Northeastern University

Location: Boston, Massachusetts
Type: Private
Federal Circuit: 1st Circuit

Speech Code Rating

Northeastern 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.

This school does not have any cases at this time.

Red Light Policies

  • Appropriate Use Policy 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies
    Last updated: November 26, 2014

    In addition to all of the requirements of this Policy, it is specifically prohibited to use Northeastern University information systems to:

    • Harass, threaten, defame, slander, or intimidate any individual or group;
    • Generate and/or spread intolerant or hateful material, which in the sole judgment of the University is directed against any individual or group, based on race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, age, gender, marital status, sexual orientation, veteran status, genetic makeup, or disability; …
    • Transmit or make accessible material, which in the sole judgment of the University is offensive, violent, pornographic, annoying, or harassing, including use of Northeastern information systems to access and/or distribute obscene or sexually explicit material unrelated to University-sanctioned work or bona fide scholarship ….

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Yellow Light Policies
  • Student Handbook: Code of Student Conduct- Disorderly Conduct 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Policies on Tolerance, Respect, and Civility
    Last updated: November 26, 2014

    Conduct that is inappropriate, disorderly, or disruptive in nature. Examples include, but are not limited to, disruptive behavior in the classroom, public urination, yelling, use of profanity, behavior that a reasonable person would consider disorderly

    » Read More

  • Bias Incident Response Protocol 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Policies on Bias and Hate Speech
    Last updated: November 26, 2014

    Bias Incident: Any conduct, or communication motivated by hatred or prejudice that demeans, degrades, or harasses an individual or group based upon membership in a protected category as recognized by law or Northeastern University policy including race, color, religion, religious creed, genetics, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, national origin, ancestry, veteran, or disability status.

    Examples include acts of vandalism, writing on a white board or walls; targeting a group or individual, in person or electronically, with hateful conduct; or other harassment that interferes with a person’s educational experience or employment, etc.

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  • Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion: Sexual Harassment Policy 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: November 26, 2014

    Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature is sexual harassment when: … Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s employment or educational performance by creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment for that individual’s employment, education, benefits, housing, or participation in a University activity.

    The legal definition of sexual harassment is broad and in addition to the above examples other sexually oriented conduct, whether it is intended or not, that is unwelcome and has the effect of creating a workplace environment that is hostile, offensive, intimidating, or humiliating to male or female workers may also constitute sexual harassment. While it is not possible to list all those additional circumstances that may constitute sexual harassment, the following are some examples of conduct which, if unwelcome, may constitute sexual harassment depending on the totality of the circumstances. This list is not intended to be exhaustive:

    Unwelcome sexual advances – whether they involve physical touching or not;

    Sexual epithets, jokes, written or oral references to sexual conduct, gossip regarding one’s sex life;

    Comment on an individual’s body, sexual activity, deficiencies or prowess;

    Communicating by any electronic means or displaying sexually suggestive objects, statements, pictures, cartoons;

    Unwelcome leering, whistling, brushing against the body, sexual gestures, suggestive or insulting comments.

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  • Student Handbook: Code of Student Conduct- Abuse of Others 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: November 26, 2014

    1. Bullying, defined as the repeated use of written, verbal, or electronic expression or communication, or a verbal, electronic, or physical act or gesture, or any combination thereof that (i) causes or is intended to cause physical, psychological and/or emotional harm to another person or damage to property; (ii) places a University community member in reasonable fear of harm to or damage to property; or (iii) creates a hostile, threatening, intimidating, humiliating, or abusive environment for a University community member or substantially interferes with academic performance, opportunities, or benefits. For purposes of this section, bullying may include, but is not limited to: social exclusion or isolation, humiliation or degradation, threats, intimidation, harassment, stalking, theft and/or damage/destruction of property, or the perpetuation of any of the conduct listed in this section by inciting, soliciting, or coercing others to demean, embarrass, humiliate, or cause emotional, psychological, or physical harm to a member of the University community. (level II or III*)

    2. Domestic Violence defined as the intentional infliction of physical, sexual or psychological harm on a current or former roommate, partner, or spouse. Domestic Violence includes dating, intimate partner, and relationship violence. (level II or III*)

    3. Harassment, defined as repeated and/or continuing unwanted behavior, coercion, or intimidation of an individual or group, either directly or indirectly, on the basis of race, color, religion, religious creed, genetics, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, national origin, ancestry, veteran, or disability status. (level II or III*)

    4. Verbal, written, graphic, or electronic abuse. (level II or III*)

    *The level of sanctioning will be dependent upon the nature of the incident with respect to above description

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  • Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion: Sexual Harassment 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: November 26, 2014

    What is Sexual Harassment?

    Sexual harassment is defined as sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:

    • Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment or academic evaluation.
    • Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment or educational decisions affecting such an individual.
    • Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work or academic performance by creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive work or academic environment.

    Examples of Sexual Harassment

      • Sexual comments or remarks about your body, your hair, your clothing
      • Sexual jokes in the classroom or workplace
      • Physical gestures such as stroking your hair or arm, massaging your shoulders, kissing you or rubbing, touching or brushing against your body
      • Verbal harassment such as the use of names like “broad,” “bitch,” “bimbo” when referring to a specific woman or to women in general
      • Requests for sexual favors that may be subtle or overt but particularly when you suspect the requests are linked to career advancement or academic reward
      • Physical assault of a sexual nature such as the touching of intimate body areas and rape
      • Sexual intercourse may occur through physical force (rape) or by coercion where you feel that certain consequences will follow if you refuse (or agree) to submit to the harasser’s request or demand

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  • Student Organization Resource Guide: Demonstrations and Reporting Guidelines 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Protest and Demonstration Policies
    Last updated: November 26, 2014

    No person or organization shall hold, cause or permit to be held a demonstration on University property or in connection with a University event unless all necessary reservations of space and permissions from the Center for Student Involvement have been obtained prior to the demonstration.

    » Read More

Green Light Policies
  • Student Handbook: Code of Student Conduct- General Expectations 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression
    Last updated: November 26, 2014

    As citizens and as members of an academic community, students enjoy the same basic rights and are bound by the same responsibilities as all citizens.

    » Read More

  • Student Handbook: Demonstrations 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression
    Last updated: November 26, 2014

    The University supports as fundamental to the democratic process the rights of all members of the University community to express their views and to protest actions or opinions with which there is disagreement. A university is where individuals express diverse ideas and viewpoints in an atmosphere free of any physical force.

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  • Crossed lines of protest, free speech at Northeastern

    March 29, 2014

    By Joan Vennochi at The Boston Globe NORTHEASTERN SAID it suspended a pro-Palestinian rights student group because it broke multiple university rules — not because it wants to silence controversial speech. The group, Students for Justice in Palestine, believes it was targeted for its politics. Whatever the reason, speech was squelched. A private university is not bound by the First Amendment. But any school of supposed higher learning should think twice before adopting that exception as one of its guiding principles. Northeastern’s SJP chapter was suspended after members slipped 600 “mock eviction” notices under dorm doors to draw attention to what the group calls […]

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  • Don’t Let The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Overwhelm Free Speech On Campus

    March 25, 2014

    by Robert Shibley at Forbes Here in the United States, we’re fortunate to enjoy comparative peace from the seemingly endless Israeli-Palestinian conflict that rages on half a world away. Yet the dispute has led supporters of both sides to launch attacks on something important to all Americans: our freedom of speech. And our nation’s university campuses—the places where Americans should be most free to speak—have played host to a disproportionate number of these threats to free expression. Just last week at Barnard College (part of Columbia University) in New York City, uproar over the hanging of a banner on Barnard […]

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  • Free Speech Debate Rekindled At Northeastern

    September 5, 2013

    Students are moving into dorms, apartments and houses, getting ready for the new school year, but a debate over free speech last semester still lingers at Northeastern University, where a group of pro-Palestinian students says administrators have stifled its free speech.Back in April, the group Students for Justice in Palestine staged a walkout of a presentation by Israeli soldiers inside a lecture hall at Northeastern. Their goal, they say, was to protest human rights abuses in the Middle East. More than 20 students marched out. Some captured video with their smartphones. Others heckled the soldiers, calling them criminals."They’re not welcome […]

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  • Stifling student voices

    June 13, 2013

    by Yvonne Abraham The Boston Globe It’s not the ’60s anymore. Colleges used to be hotbeds of political activity, combative marketplaces of ideas. Now they’re overpriced country clubs with climbing walls, sushi, and a culture of enforced politeness that is downright depressing. Which makes a dispute playing out at Northeastern University especially remarkable, and significant. It began in April, when the school’s Students for Justice in Palestine staged a walkout at a presentation by Israeli soldiers. At the start of the event, 35 students stood, small signs taped to their shirts. One member called the soldiers war criminals. One or […]

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  • Unlearning liberty

    November 30, 2012

    ‘At Stanford, I took every human rights class that was offered, every First Amendment class, and in addition to that, for six additional credits, I did an independent study on the origins of the prior restraint doctrine of Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I. That’s how much of a nerd I am about this stuff.’ Greg Lukianoff lets out a big hearty laugh, before adding, ‘And I really enjoyed that last one’.             There is no doubting Lukianoff’s passion for the principles of liberty. In 2006, he was made president of the Foundation for Individual Rights […]

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  • How Free Speech Died on Campus

    November 16, 2012

    At Yale University, you can be prevented from putting an F. Scott Fitzgerald quote on your T-shirt. At Tufts, you can be censured for quoting certain passages from the Quran. Welcome to the most authoritarian institution in America: the modern university—”a bizarre, parallel dimension,” as Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, calls it. Mr. Lukianoff, a 38-year-old Stanford Law grad, has spent the past decade fighting free-speech battles on college campuses. The latest was last week at Fordham University, where President Joseph McShane scolded College Republicans for the sin of inviting Ann Coulter to speak.  […]

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  • Commentary: Hypocritical media ciphers should smarten up

    June 20, 2007

    After reading the concerns of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a non-profit organization that advocates for civil liberties, voiced about how the university is violating our privacy and freedom of speech I couldn’t help but wonder how hypocritical the issue seemed. On one hand, I understood why the university has to monitor e-mail servers and university computers to maintain a certain level of safety and order on campus and to protect us from harassment, identity theft and such. On the other, I was mesmerized to see that the same process is not used in all aspects of […]

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  • Keeping a watchful eye

    June 6, 2007

    The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a non-profit organization that advocates for civil liberties in academia, recently placed Northeastern on its watch list and has argued that several of Northeastern’s policies restrict free speech on campus. In an op-ed published May 21 in the New York Post, FIRE berated the university for enforcing campus speech codes that it said limit free expression otherwise protected by the First Amendment. FIRE’s op-ed, authored by the organization, called the university “the self-appointed arbiter of good taste” and cited a section of the Northeastern’s Appropriate Use Policy (AUP) that prohibits the use […]

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  • Campus Alert: Don’t laugh too hard

    May 21, 2007

    How would you feel if you got in trouble not for telling an off-color joke, but simply for laughing at one? Sounds inconceivable, right? Not at Drexel University in Philadelphia, where school policy prohibits not only “inconsiderate jokes” but also “inappropriately directed laughter.” Not only won’t they let you tell certain jokes, they promise to punish you for finding them funny. Drexel is not alone in its prohibition of what can only be described as typical college student interaction. Northeastern University in Boston, apparently the self-appointed arbiter of good taste, prohibits sending any e-mail message “which in the sole judgment […]

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  • FIRE Chairman Calls Out Northeast Colleges in Annual ‘Muzzle Awards’

    July 6, 2015

    Each summer for the past eighteen years, FIRE Co-founder and Chairman Harvey Silverglate has announced the winners of his annual “Campus Muzzle Awards”: colleges and universities in the Northeast stifling campus discourse in particularly outrageous ways. Along with myself and fellow research assistant Timothy Moore, this year, Harvey has written about incidents at Brown University, SUNY Buffalo State, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Norwich University, and Harvard Law School. As always, a key theme is students’ and administrators’ desire to shield themselves from uncomfortable speech or ideas. Regarding the incident at Harvard Law School, Harvey writes: The campus “disinvitation” trend forces […]

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  • Boston’s WGBH Announces Muzzle Award ‘Winners’

    July 9, 2014

    Boston’s WGBH News has just announced the “winners” of its 2014 Muzzle Awards, given to those who have particularly impeded freedom of speech over the past year. Formerly published in the Boston Phoenix, WGBH has adopted the awards and is continuing the tradition of “singl[ing] out the dramatic and the petty, the epic and the absurd.”

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  • ‘Globe’ Columnist: Northeastern Censorship Squelches Speech, Learning

    March 31, 2014

    Joan Vennochi has a brilliant column in ‘The Boston Globe’ about Northeastern University’s suspension of its campus chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine. Not only does Vennochi quickly dismantle all of the university’s excuses for the suspension, she also gets to the heart of why so many universities are so quick to squelch campus protests.

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  • Free Speech Concerns Swirl Around Northeastern University’s Suspension of Pro-Palestinian Group

    March 14, 2014

    In recent days, FIRE has been following the story—reported today by The Boston Globe—that Northeastern University has suspended the group Northeastern Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) for reasons that seem largely related to the group’s expression.

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  • Students Protest Northeastern U.’s Demonstration Policy

    August 12, 2013

    Earlier this summer on The Torch, we reported on a controversy at Northeastern University surrounding the school’s requirement that student organizations obtain a permit at least seven days in advance of campus protests. After the student group Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) was sanctioned for a walkout-style demonstration at a talk by Israeli soldiers, some questioned whether the school’s response was motivated more by SJP’s message than by their failure to obtain a permit. Last Wednesday, SJP and supporters of the group staged a protest against what they say was selective enforcement of the policy. But as FIRE’s Will […]

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  • Creeley in ‘Boston Globe’: Northeastern U’s Requirements Stifle Free Expression

    June 13, 2013

    Boston Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham wrote today to criticize Northeastern University’s inconsistent handling of student protests by pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian students. The controversy centers on Northeastern’s requirement that student groups obtain a permit at least seven days in advance of protests. But Abraham questions whether the requirement was the real reason for sanctioning the school’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and whether such a requirement should even exist. In April, members of SJP staged a quickly-executed walkout at a presentation by Israeli soldiers and were placed on probation by the university ostensibly for not obtaining a permit. Northeastern says […]

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  • Northeastern Student Speaks Out; FIRE Responds

    June 13, 2007

    In response to my blog entry about Northeastern’s speech code, Northeastern undergraduate Daniel Kamyck sent us the following comment: While I enjoy keeping aware of FIRE’s work across the country, and though I support the defense of individual rights in an academic setting, I’m disappointed that FIRE has chosen to ridicule the Acceptable Use Policy at Northeastern University. As an undergraduate student, I support the existing policy. I think it’s quite silly that you’ve declared, by your measure, that most students at Northeastern would support having this policy rescinded. More likely, most reasonable students here, constituting the majority, would agree […]

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  • Northeastern University: Students Question, Administration Defends Speech Code

    June 8, 2007

    Northeastern University’s student newspaper, The Northeastern News, recently did a feature story on Northeastern’s Appropriate Use Policy, which makes punishable any e-mail “which in the sole judgment of the University is offensive.” FIRE was so appalled by this policy that we named it our February 2007 Speech Code of the Month, and now it seems to have caught the concerned eye of Northeastern students as well. According to the article, FIRE’s concern over censorship at Northeastern is warranted: In recent years there has been at least one case of censorship under the AUP. In September 2005, university administrators ordered the […]

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  • Today’s ‘Campus Alert’: Don’t Laugh Too Hard

    May 21, 2007

    Our weekly Campus Alert column in the New York Post focuses today on speech codes at Drexel University, Northeastern University, and Johns Hopkins University—all of which have been named FIRE’s Speech Code of the Month for banning constitutionally protected expression on their respective campuses.   Drexel, which was given the dubious honor of being recognized as FIRE’s Speech Code of the Month for September 2006, prohibits not only “inconsiderate jokes,” but also “inappropriately directed laughter.” So students can be punished not only for telling a joke some may find offensive, but also merely for laughing at one. Not so funny […]

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  • Speech Code of the Month: Northeastern University

    February 2, 2007

    FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for February 2007: Northeastern University in Boston. We would like to congratulate Northeastern on being named one of America’s Top 100 National Universities by U.S. News & World Report this past summer. On behalf of everyone at FIRE, welcome to our radar screen!* Northeastern’s Appropriate Use of Computer and Network Resources Policy provides that no student may use Northeastern’s information systems or facilities to “[g]enerate and/or spread intolerant or hateful material, which in the sole judgment of the University is directed against any individual or group, based on race, religion, national origin, […]

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