Oberlin College

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

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.

This school does not have any cases at this time.
Yellow Light Policies
  • Student Regulations, Policies, and Procedures: Introduction 14-15

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

    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.

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  • Student Regulations, Policies, and Procedures: Policy for the Acceptable Use of Information Technology Resources 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies

    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.

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  • Sexual Misconduct Policy: Prohibited Conduct and Effective Consent 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    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


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  • Student Regulations, Policies, and Procedures: General Posting Policy 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Posting and Distribution Policies

    All informational materials intended for public viewing must have the sponsoring department, student organization, College committee or individual name clearly displayed. This includes: flyers, posters, table tents, etc. In accordance with the Student Bill of Rights, “members of the College are expected to take responsibility for their expressions; anonymous expressions are inimical to the free and open exchange of ideas.”

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Green Light Policies
  • Student Regulations, Policies, and Procedures: Code of Conduct- Harassment 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    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: Student Bill of Rights 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression

    Oberlin College exists as an educational community in which free inquiry and free expression are indispensable.

    We as a community encourage and protect free inquiry and the open exchange of facts, ideas, and opinions.

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  • Student Regulations, Policies, and Procedures: Faculty Statement on Freedom of Speech and Expression 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression

    Oberlin College, in its traditions and as an academic institution, is devoted to free and open inquiry. Therefore, it is important that freedom of speech and freedom of expression be guaranteed to individuals and groups to express whatever views they wish, so long as they do not interfere with the rights of others.

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  • Student Regulations, Policies, and Procedures: Policy on Discrimination and Harassment Policy 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    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: Oberlin College Policies and Procedures for Protests and Demonstration 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Protest and Demonstration Policies

    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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  • 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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  • Fake ‘hate crimes’ continue to plague campuses

    August 27, 2013

    Last Thursday, Chuck Ross of the Daily Caller News Foundation broke the story that a number of supposed racial incidents at Oberlin College in Ohio this spring were, in fact, a hoax. Oberlin certainly took the incidents seriously, even canceling classes on March 5 to convene a “day of solidarity.” However, Oberlin city police reports obtained by Ross made it clear that at least some of the material that had Oberlin up in arms, including a large swastika banner that was hung in the science center under cover of night, was in fact done by one or two Oberlin students as a “joke/troll to […]

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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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  • 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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