Oberlin College

Location: Oberlin, Ohio
Website: http://www.oberlin.edu
Type: Private
Federal Circuit: 6th Circuit

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

Speech Code Rating

Oberlin College 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.

At present, FIRE has not been involved in any cases at this school.
Yellow Light Policies
  • Student Regulations, Policies, and Procedures: Information Technology Policies

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies
    Last updated: February 27, 2018

    Account holders should not abuse any electronic mail, bulletin board, or communications system, either local or remote, by sending rude, obscene, or harassing messages (including chain letters) or by using these systems for nonessential purposes during times when they are in heavy demand. Account holders should identify themselves clearly and accurately in all electronic communications, i.e., no anonymous postings. Unofficial mass e-mailings (i.e., spam) are prohibited.

    » Read More

  • Student Regulations, Policies, and Procedures: Student Bill of Rights

    Speech Code Category: Other Speech Codes
    Last updated: February 26, 2018

    Members of the college are expected to take responsibility for their expressions; anonymous expressions are inimical to the free and open exchange of ideas.

    » Read More

  • Sexual Misconduct Policy: Definitions of Prohibited Conduct

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: February 27, 2018

    Sexual harassment is any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature, including unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and or other verbal, nonverbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature. Sexual harassment occurs when any of the following conditions are present: …  Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work or academic performance, i.e. it is sufficiently serious, pervasive or persistent as to create an intimidating, hostile, humiliating, demeaning, or sexually offensive working, academic, residential, or social environment under both the subjective perspective of the person who experiences such conduct and objective standard of a reasonable person’s perception of such conduct.
    A single isolated incident of sexual harassment may create a hostile environment if the incident is sufficiently severe. The more severe the conduct, the less need there is to show a repetitive series of incidents to establish the existence of a hostile environment, particularly if the harassment is physical. Conduct which is pervasive or persistent, even if not severe, may also create a hostile environment.
    Gender-based harassment may include acts of verbal, nonverbal, or physical aggression, intimidation, or hostility based on gender, sex or gender and or sex or gender stereotyping, even if those acts do not involve conduct of a sexual nature.

    Examples of conduct that may constitute sexual or gender-based harassment as defined above may include a severe, persistent or pervasive pattern of unwelcome conduct that includes one or more of the following:

    Physical conduct:

    • Unwelcome touching, sexual/physical assault, impeding, restraining, or blocking movements
    • Unwanted sexual advances

    Verbal conduct:

    • Making or using derogatory comments, epithets, slurs or humor
    • Intentionally using incorrect pronouns or an incorrect name when a person has clearly stated their preferred name and pronouns.
    • Verbal abuse of a sexual nature, graphic verbal commentaries about an individual’s body, sexually degrading words used to describe an individual, suggestive or obscene letters, notes or invitations
    • Objectively offensive comments of a sexual nature, including persistent or pervasive sexually explicit statements, questions, jokes, or anecdotes

    Visual conduct:

    • Leering, making sexual gestures, displaying of suggestive or demeaning objects or pictures, cartoon or posters in a public space or forum
    • Severe, persistent, or pervasive visual displays of suggestive, erotic, or degrading images. This example should not be understood to constrain academic freedom in teaching, research, or creative activity, or to limit intellectual and or expressive rights.
    • Letters, notes or electronic communications containing comments, words, or images described above


    » Read More

  • Student Regulations, Policies, and Procedures: Introduction

    Speech Code Category: Policies on Tolerance, Respect, and Civility
    Last updated: February 26, 2018

    In order for the Oberlin College community to learn and benefit from the ideas of others, our attachment to the principles of free speech should also be tempered by a substantial degree of respect for all members of the community. Moreover, the exercise of free speech does not extend to language that is intimidating or harassing to individuals or that creates a hostile environment for particular members of the community.

    » Read More

Green Light Policies
  • Student Regulations, Policies, and Procedures: Discrimination and Harassment Policy and Processes

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: February 27, 2018

    Harassment is unwelcome speech or conduct (e.g., physical, oral, graphic, or written) related to [race, color, sex, marital status, religion, creed, national origin, disability, age, military or veteran status, sexual orientation, family relationship to an employee of Oberlin College, and gender identity and expression] listed above that is sufficiently severe, persistent or pervasive so as to (a) interfere substantially with a person’s work or education or (b) create an environment that a reasonable person would find hostile, offensive, or intimidating.

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  • Student Regulations, Policies, and Procedures: Campus Code of Conduct

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: February 26, 2018

    HARASSMENT Any verbal, physical, or written act, directed at an individual, that might reasonably be construed to intimidate, coerce, or create a hostile environment for him or her and, in turn, prevent him or her from fully enjoying the educational benefits of the college. At the same time, proscriptions of verbal harassment must not have the effect of limiting the free exchange of ideas or opinions; rude or obnoxious behavior or speech—whether inside or outside the classroom—is not necessarily in itself adjudicable….

    Harassment includes, but is not limited to, the following examples: … B. Forms of intimidation or harassment including patterned verbal (oral, written, or electronic communications, including: e-mail, text messages or other electronic media devices) acts or physical behavior related in time that deprive a reasonable person of the ability to enjoy the full benefits of his/her college education as a result of the perceived threat of physical harm or mental harm.

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  • Student Regulations, Policies, and Procedures: Policies and Procedures for Protests and Demonstration

    Speech Code Category: Protest and Demonstration Policies
    Last updated: February 26, 2018

    Oberlin College emphatically affirms the right of all its members to protest and demonstrate.

    Consistent with the Faculty Statement on Social and Political Unrest that was adopted on February 27, 1968, students are encouraged to consult with the Office of the Dean of Students prior to sponsoring a demonstration, protest, or other activity where First Amendment rights are exercised, whether on or off the central campus. The purpose of such consultation is to obtain an advisory opinion as to the suitability of the planned action and as to the possible penalties that might be imposed or recommended if an unsuitable action is carried out. Such consultation may also reduce the chance that students might place themselves at risk by unknowingly violating college regulations or civil laws and regulations. The college recognizes that students may choose to participate in spontaneous demonstrations and that prior notification from students may not occur. Whether the advice of the Office of the Dean of Students has or has not been sought, students participating in a protest or demonstration should be prepared to assume the consequences of their behavior.

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  • Student Regulations, Policies, and Procedures: Letter from the Dean of Students

    Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression
    Last updated: February 26, 2018

    From its inception, Oberlin College has been dedicated to free and open thought and expression. The community’s positions on social issues have often been quite varied; our members have included abolitionists, missionaries, libertarians, integrationists, and prohibitionists, as well as suffragists, nationalists, communitarians, pacifists, and fundamentalists. Although frequently regarded as progressive in their time, Oberlinians have promoted ideas that by some interpretation – or by the terms of another era – may not seem so. What has remained constant is our belief in the importance of allowing ideas to flourish, regardless of their popularity at a given moment.

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  • Student Regulations, Policies, and Procedures: Guidelines for Meetings Involving Speakers, Films, and Other Forms of Artistic Expression

    Speech Code Category: Protest and Demonstration Policies
    Last updated: February 26, 2018

    Oberlin College is committed to maintaining an environment where open, vigorous debate and speech can occur. This commitment entails encouraging and assisting organizations that want to sponsor speakers, films, and other forms of expression as well as informing students who seek guidance concerning forms of protest against speakers. It may also involve paying for extraordinary security measures in connection with a controversial speaker.


    Displaying a sign (signs may not be mounted on poles when displayed indoors), wearing expressive clothing, gesturing, standing, or otherwise protesting noiselessly is acceptable and must not be interfered with, unless the protest interferes with the audience’s view or prevents the audience from paying attention to the speaker.

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  • Uninviting Rap

    April 1, 2016

    By Josh Logue at Inside Higher Ed A rare but not unheard of cousin of the commencement season speaker controversy is the spring concert performer controversy. Students have objected in the past to bands’ names, insufficient ethnic diversity and, perhaps most often, objectionable lyrics… Read more here.

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  • Oberlin’s Board Chair says it’s Time for Quick Action Against Anti-Semitic Words

    March 8, 2016

    By Susan Svrluga at The Washington Post After a professor at Oberlin College posted comments on social media and shared posts claiming that Jews and Israelis control much of the world and were responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the Islamic State, the college’s president defended the principle of academic freedom. Read more here.

    » Read More
  • Was 2015 a Bad Year for Campus Free Speech? Let’s Ask the Experts

    December 28, 2015

    By Robby Soave at Reason.com Are easily-offended students and their allies within the university bureaucracy ushering in a new era of censorship on American college campuses? Even President Obama is worried that excessive political correctness is stifling legitimate debate at universities. Still, it’s hard to say whether the situation on campuses is truly dire, or even getting worse. In the past year, I’ve written about dozens of egregious free speech violations—but a mere collection of anecdotes does not necessarily indicate a trend. Indeed, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education recently turned up some good news: the percentage of universities […]

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  • Trigger Warning Skepticism

    December 2, 2015

    By Colleen Flaherty at Inside Higher Ed Much of the debate thus far over trigger warnings — the flagging of specific course content that might offend or otherwise upset students — has centered on anecdotes, some of them obviously controversial. At Oberlin College, for example, proposed trigger warning guidelines said that Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart might merit a trigger warning. The idea upset many professors who said labeling it as excessively violent could undermine the experience of reading the novel. And some Columbia University students’ request that Ovid’sMetamorphoses be flagged as a poem about rape earned similar criticism. Supporters of trigger […]

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  • Joe Rogan Interviews Christina Hoff Sommers in No-Holds-Barred Interview

    November 21, 2015

    By Jason Weaver at College Fix The latest installment of the “The Joe Rogan Experience” featured a nearly three-hour long interview with “Factual Feminist” Christina Hoff Sommers. Sommers, whose “Factual Feminist” YouTube videos are wildly popular, is a former philosophy professor and prolific author known for her critiques of feminism, including Who Stole Feminism: How Women Have Betrayed Women and The War Against Boys: How Misguided Policies Are Harming Our Young Men. Sommers often tackles the alleged gender wage gap and inflated campus sexual assault statistics, a factual feminist who had taken on fanatical feminists for decades. During the interview, Sommers provided insight into her […]

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  • Academic Fascism II

    August 17, 2015

    By Walter Williams at DeSoto Times-Tribune Last week’s column highlighted college campus absurdities and the ongoing attack on free speech and plain common sense. As parents gear up to fork over $20,000 to $60,000 for college tuition, they might benefit from knowing what greets their youngsters. Deceitful college officials, who visit high schools to recruit students and talk to parents, conceal the worst of their campus practices. Let’s expose some of it. Christina Hoff Sommers is an avowed feminist and a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. She’s spent a lifetime visiting college campuses. Recently, upon her arrival at Oberlin […]

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  • Michelle Obama To Deliver Speech At Oberlin College, No ‘Safe Spaces’ In The Works

    May 6, 2015

    By Kaitlyn Schallhorn at Campus Reform As the winner of a White House competition, Oberlin College will host First Lady Michelle Obama during their commencement at the end of May. Obama will give an address during the commencement. Liberal feminists at the college protested a recent talk by Christina Hoff Sommers; no such protest is in the work for the First Lady. While a visit to Oberlin College from an equity feminist prompted protests, safe spaces, and ridicule, the news that First Lady Michelle Obama will give a commencement speech at the liberal arts school has been met with excitement […]

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  • The Campus Crusade to ‘Safely’ Squelch Speech

    April 27, 2015

    By Naomi Schaefer Riley at New York Post When he co-founded the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education 15 years ago, civil-rights attorney Harvey Silverglate hoped it would disappear after 10 years. “Surely,” he thought, “these speech codes and kangaroo courts are so antithetical to the nature of institutions of higher education — rational institutions — that there was no way this culture [of suppressing speech] could possibly survive more than a decade.” Sadly, recent months have shown that the atmosphere on college campuses is getting worse. Last week, a speech by Christina Hoff Sommers, author of “Who Stole Feminism?” was […]

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  • Video: Megyn Kelly Offers Helpful Advice to Students Seeking “Safe Space” from Opinions

    April 23, 2015

    By Ed Morrissey at Hot Air “Life doesn’t only involve the people who think the way you think,” Megyn Kelly told college students toward the end of her interview with Christina Hoff Sommers. Kelly and Sommers discuss the latter’s recent experiences at college campus events, where the mere presence of her fact-based critiques of “rape culture” hysteria are enough to send campus activists into rumpus rooms to protect themselves from the supposed cognitive damage that alternative points of view provide. “In the words of my old trainer,” Kelly concludes out of frustration, “toughen up, buttercup.” Heather Wilhelm calls all of […]

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  • Christina Hoff Sommers Lecture Leads to ‘Trigger Warnings’ and ‘Safe Spaces’ at Oberlin and Georgetown

    April 22, 2015

    By Allum Bokhari at Breitbart Equity feminist and former philosophy professor Christina Hoff Sommers is not a particularly threatening figure. But student activists at Oberlin and Georgetown colleges, where Sommers recently spoke, were insistent that her presence on their campuses posed a threat to the student population. Activists at Georgetown University held up “trigger warning” placards at Sommers’ lectures, warning that her arguments would be potentially traumatizing. They also posted signs directing students to a “safe space” in another part of the college. Much like the recent Calgary Expo, the prospect of having their beliefs challenged was enough to make the activists feel […]

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  • Conservative Speaker at Oberlin Triggers Debate About Feminist ‘Trigger Warnings’: Scholar Accused of Causing Trauma by ‘Denying’ Rape Culture

    April 22, 2015

    By Valerie Richardson at The Washington Times You wouldn’t know it to look at her, but Christina Hoff Sommers is apparently the kind of speaker whose very presence on college campuses is so alarming that students require advance notice, also known as a trigger warning. At least, that’s what happened when the American Enterprise Institute scholar spoke this month at Georgetown University and Oberlin College. Campus feminists kicked into high alert, warning students that her lecture on feminism and criticism of the college “rape culture” could make them “feel unsafe.” Monday’s Oberlin event came with a “safe space” for people […]

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  • Campus Hate Crime Hoaxes: A Best-Of List

    December 17, 2014

    By Michael Cipriano at The College Fix From New Jersey to Wyoming, college campuses around the country have been plagued with hate crime hoaxes in recent years. Sometimes justified as trying to raise awareness for progressive social causes, the hoaxes often worked. The College Fix compiled this list of recent university hate crime hoaxes. Racist Facebook messages posted by student himself – November 2014 A University of Chicago student admitted to posting racist and violent messages against himself on his Facebook page after claiming his account was hacked. The elaborate hoax was an attempt to shame the school into making policy changes addressing race […]

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  • Thought Reform 101

    March 1, 2000

    At Wake Forest University last fall, one of the few events designated as “mandatory” for freshman orientation was attendance at Blue Eyed, a filmed racism awareness workshop in which whites are abused, ridiculed, made to fail, and taught helpless passivity so that they can identify with “a person of color for a day.” In Swarthmore College’s dormitories, in the fall of 1998, first-year students were asked to line up by skin color, from lightest to darkest, and to step forward and talk about how they felt concerning their place in that line. Indeed, at almost all of our campuses, some […]

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  • On Free Speech, Double Standards, and Professor Mike Adams

    December 2, 2016

    Mike Adams, a professor at the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW), is no stranger to controversy. In 2014, Adams won a First Amendment lawsuit alleging that UNCW retaliated against him for his public expression of conservative views. Now, Adams once again finds himself at the center of a debate over the boundaries of free speech—but this time the university appears to be squarely on the side of free speech, and will hopefully stay that way. In September, Adams published an article harshly criticizing a UNCW student who received a visit from the Secret Service after she posted on Facebook […]

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  • Oberlin President Discusses Dissent and Censorship Trends on Campus

    November 28, 2014

    In a letter to the campus community last week, President Marvin Krislov praised the role of open discourse on campus and warned students that the academic environment at Oberlin College suffers when freedom of speech is stifled. Krislov noted that Oberlin has, unfortunately, played a role in the growing trend of censorship on campus: [A]t Oberlin, where we typically applaud the value of free and open discussion and the clash of ideas and views, this national trend has appeared on a few occasions. Audience members who disagreed with a speaker or speakers’ views have disrupted the event with heckling, demonstrations, […]

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  • The Shibleys Explain the Harms Caused by Campus ‘Trigger Warnings’

    May 27, 2014

    With the recent controversies at Oberlin College and Wellesley College, it’s no surprise that trigger warnings have been the subject of a lot of media attention. Today, FIRE’s Robert Shibley and his wife Araz (who is also a lawyer) joined the chorus of those concerned about this practice in a column on Reason.com. In the piece, the Shibleys set forth the many harms caused by trigger warnings on campus:

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  • ReasonTV Explores College Classroom ‘Trigger Warnings’ in New Video

    May 8, 2014

    FIRE President Greg Lukianoff makes an appearance in a new ReasonTV video that discusses proposals at Oberlin College and the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) to require “trigger warnings” on course syllabi.

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  • ‘USA Today’ Gets It Right on Trigger Warnings in Higher Education

    April 25, 2014

    Earlier this week, the editorial board of ‘USA Today’ penned an excellent piece describing the free speech and academic freedom problems presented by the spread of “trigger warnings” into higher education.

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  • Revisions Promised After Oberlin Faculty Object to ‘Trigger Warning’ Policy

    April 11, 2014

    Last month, ‘The New Republic’ published an article by Jenny Jarvie on the growing trend of “trigger warnings,” disclaimers to audiences that the material they are about to view or read might “trigger” the remembrance of past traumas like sexual assault or other violence. The warnings have proliferated on websites—particularly Tumblr posts, blogs, and message boards—in recent years, but now they’re being adopted in other contexts, like syllabi for college courses.

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  • Hate Crime Hoaxes and How Colleges Handle Them

    August 27, 2013

    My latest article in The Daily Caller talks about this past spring’s rash of incidents of hateful expression at Oberlin College in Ohio—at least some of which turned out to be hoaxes committed by students who wanted to “troll” the campus. Such hoaxes have been a recurring problem on campuses. In my article, I explain that in addition to alarming campus community members, these incidents are often seized upon as an excuse to clamp down on protected speech.

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