Pennsylvania State University – University Park

Location: University Park, Pennsylvania
Type: Public
Tell Pennsylvania State University – University Park to revise its speech policies by filling out this form.

Speech Code Rating

Pennsylvania State University – University Park 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

Due Process Rating

Sexual Misconduct

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F

Non-Sexual Misconduct

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F

Policies are rated on their inclusion of 10 due process safeguards. Each policy may receive 2 points for fully including that safeguard, 1 point for partial inclusion, and 0 points for no meaningful inclusion. Most, but not all, institutions have separate policies for sexual misconduct and all other misconduct. See FIRE’s Spotlight on Due Process report for more information.

Grades

Sexual Misconduct

F
1/20
  • Presumption of innocence
  • Adequate and timely notice
  • Adequate time to prepare
  • Conflicts of interest prohibited
  • Right to challenge fact-finders
  • Access to all evidence
  • Right to face accuser and witness
  • Active participation of counsel
  • Meaningful right to appeal
  • Expulsion must be unanimous

Non-Sexual Misconduct

F
3/20
  • Presumption of innocence
  • Adequate and timely notice
  • Adequate time to prepare
  • Conflicts of interest prohibited
  • Right to challenge fact-finders
  • Access to all evidence
  • Right to face accuser and witness
  • Active participation of counsel
  • Meaningful right to appeal
  • Expulsion must be unanimous
  • Shouting down speakers doesn’t work

    October 24, 2017

    Our nation’s commitment to the principles and ideals of free speech is most often tested in the face of expression that many people reject as repugnant and harmful. So it was when the federal government attempted to stifle communist expression during the Red Scare and the Cold War. So it was in the 1970s, when… Read more

  • Due process legal update

    October 3, 2017

    Late last month, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) rescinded the April 4, 2011, “Dear Colleague” letter, which required schools to adjudicate sexual misconduct claims under the “preponderance of the evidence” standard and ushered in a climate of aggressive Title IX enforcement in which many schools abandoned critical due process protections for… Read more

  • Penn State Cites Due Process in Delaying Punishment for Fraternity

    March 30, 2015

    Earlier this month, the national Kappa Delta Rho (KDR) fraternity suspended its Pennsylvania State University chapter after the discovery of a private Facebook page containing pictures of passed out and/or naked women, hazing, and drug deals allegedly posted by KDR members. Penn State President Eric Barron wrote in a statement sent to the university community… Read more

  • Penn State Pushes Back Against Students’ and Senator’s Disinvitation Demands

    March 16, 2015

    Bill Ayers is no stranger to disinvitation attempts, and his recent invitation to speak at Pennsylvania State University predictably provoked opposition. Ayers is scheduled to speak at campus events on March 19 and 20, hosted by student groups using the funds allocated to them from student activity fees. Last Friday, a group of 11 students… Read more

  • Speech Codes of the Year: 2014

    December 24, 2014

    Each month, FIRE singles out a particularly reprehensible campus speech code for our Speech Code of the Month designation. While all of 2014’s Speech Codes of the Month flagrantly violated students’ or faculty members’ right to free expression, two of them were so egregious that they deserve special mention as 2014’s Speech Codes of the… Read more

  • Speech Code of the Month: Pennsylvania State University

    December 8, 2014

    FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for December 2014: Pennsylvania State University (Penn State). At Penn State, “Sexual Harassment is defined as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that is unwanted, inappropriate, or unconsented to.” This is a staggeringly broad definition that… Read more

  • Constitution Day 2014: What a Difference a Year Makes

    September 18, 2014

    September 17, 2013—last year’s Constitution Day—turned out to be a dark moment in the history of free speech on America’s campuses. That was the day Robert Van Tuinen was stopped from handing out Constitutions on the campus of Modesto Junior College (MJC) in California. He had neglected to sign up to use the school’s tiny… Read more

  • Universities Must Not Intrude Upon Freedom of Conscience in ‘Values’ Statements

    January 16, 2014

    This winter, FIRE is running a series of blog posts about what makes a “green light” policy. So far, we have examined how universities can craft policies on harassment, civility, and computer usage that achieve their aims while still respecting students’ right to freedom of speech. Today we are going to talk about policies that infringe on students’ right to… Read more

  • This Month in FIRE History: FIRE Secures the Rights of Penn State Student Group

    March 15, 2012

    Eleven years ago this month, FIRE secured an important victory for freedom of association at Pennsylvania State University (PSU). The case first began in December 2000, when PSU’s undergraduate Student Government Supreme Court informed the school’s chapter of Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) that the words of its constitution and mission statement (which had been… Read more

  • College Students Defy Free Speech Restrictions to Celebrate Death of Bin Laden

    May 2, 2011

    The announcement late last evening that U.S. forces had killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan inspired celebrations outside the White House, in New York City, and on a number of college campuses. Spontaneous gatherings in response to major events—such as beginning or ending a war, an assassination, a heinous campus crime—are natural and to be… Read more

  • FIRE’s 2010 Video Campaign: Highlighting Censorship of Hot Button Issues, Part 2

    December 24, 2010

    In reviewing FIRE’s multimedia efforts at the close of 2010, I introduced our new video series on censorship of hot-button issues. Our second installment in this series, “Portraits of Terror,” is a key example of why video is so effective in relaying the stories behind our cases. In this case, it was images, not words, that… Read more

  • ‘Portraits of Terror’ Exceeds 10,000 Views on YouTube

    November 3, 2010

    Another one of FIRE’s short films is gaining popularity on YouTube this week. Portraits of Terror portrays the case of Joshua Stulman, a student artist censored by Penn State administrators for presenting a satirical exhibition about terrorism in the Palestinian territories of Gaza and the West Bank, and it has now exceeded 10,000 views. We’re excited… Read more

  • New FIRE Video: Sean Clark on Penn State’s Problem with ‘God-Given Free Will’

    October 26, 2010

    Today, FIRE’s Campus Freedom Network (CFN) has released a new video as part of a series featuring students and professors whose rights FIRE has defended. Sean Clark was part of a group at Penn State University, Young Americans for Freedom, whose charter included a reference to "God-given free will" as a reason to support individual liberty. When… Read more

  • New FIRE Video ‘Portraits of Terror’ Takes on Censorship of Art Examining Palestinian Terrorism

    September 27, 2010

    Today FIRE unveils the second video in our series examining censorship of hot-button issues on college campuses. Our new video, Portraits of Terror, tells the story of artist Joshua Stulman, whose exhibit of the same name was censored at Penn State University in 2006 by two professors who claimed that the art violated Penn State’s… Read more

  • Portraits of Terror

    September 27, 2010

    The case of Joshua Stulman, a student artist censored by Penn State administrators for presenting a satirical exhibition about terrorism in the Palestinian territories of Gaza and the West Bank. [iframe src=”//www.youtube.com/embed/y_Sea_uGgHk”]

  • Censorship of Anti-Terrorism Art Exhibit Documented in New FIRE Video

    September 27, 2010

    PHILADELPHIA, September 27, 2010—A new short film by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) documents the experience of Penn State student artist Joshua Stulman, whose “Portraits of Terror” art exhibit was censored by the university because it satirized Islamic terrorism. Stulman is just one of numerous college students and faculty members who have… Read more

  • ADF’s David Hacker on Civility Codes as Speech Codes

    August 12, 2010

    Last week in The Christian Post, Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) Legal Counsel David J. Hacker took aim at an August 5, 2010, article titled "Rude Democracy" in Inside Higher Ed, written by Susan Herbst. Herbst discusses the perceived lack of civility in contemporary American discourse, both in the larger society and on university campuses, and argues that… Read more

  • University of Louisville Responds Admirably to FIRE Concerns about New Policies

    January 25, 2010

    Back in June, as Will wrote, the University of Louisville was inviting comment about proposed changes to the school’s Code of Conduct, including a new Values Statement. FIRE was invited to review the drafts of the new policies by a faculty member concerned about possible violations of individual rights. We communicated a few comments and… Read more

  • Rights in the News: Recent Victories and Ongoing Speech Code Efforts Continue to Get FIRE’s Message Across

    February 6, 2009

    For yet another week, word of FIRE’s efforts has reverberated throughout the national and online press. As Azhar noted earlier today, Greg’s latest column for The Huffington Post expresses FIRE’s relief at the dropped "spamming" charges against Michigan State University junior Kara Spencer, but also notes our concern that the online policy Spencer was initially… Read more

  • University at Buffalo Responds to Speech Code of the Month Inquiry

    January 30, 2009

    FIRE supporter and New York state resident Lee Brink recently wrote to University at Buffalo (also known as SUNY-Buffalo) President John Simpson to ask about the university residence halls’ Statement of Civility, which FIRE named our Speech Code of the Month for January 2009. The Statement of Civility provides that: Students are expected to act… Read more

  • Penn State Revises ‘Principles’ in Victory for Free Speech

    January 30, 2009

    In response to Pennsylvania State University being named FIRE’s Speech Code of the Month for September 2008, Penn State President Graham Spanier agreed to change the preamble to the Penn State Principles to clarify that protected expression will not be prohibited, investigated, or punished on campus. We wrote President Spanier to inform him of Penn… Read more

  • FIRE’s Adam Kissel to Speak at Penn State University This Thursday

    December 9, 2008

    Adam Kissel, director of FIRE’s Individual Rights Defense Program, will be giving a talk at Pennsylvania State University this Thursday. He has been invited to speak by CFN member Thomas Shakely, and his lecture is sponsored by the PSU student group Safeguard Old State. Adam’s free public lecture, "Liberty in Peril: Speech Codes on our Nation’s… Read more

  • Speech Code of the Month: Pennsylvania State University

    September 2, 2008

    FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for September 2008: Pennsylvania State University. Penn State owes this undesirable distinction to the Penn State Principles, a set of behavioral guidelines that “[i]t is understood that members of the Penn State community agree to abide by…to ensure that Penn State is a thriving environment for living… Read more

  • ‘USA Today’ Education Reporter Launches Higher Ed Blog: Penn State and FIRE Are Hot Topics

    December 11, 2007

    I was just contacted by reporter Mary Beth Marklein from USA Today about a post on her new blog regarding issues in higher education. For those of you unfamiliar with her work, Mary Beth has written some excellent articles over the years highlighting speech codes and campus free speech controversies. Today she wanted to get… Read more

  • Penn State’s Student Newspaper Advocates Policy Revision for Free Speech

    November 28, 2007

    Today’s edition of Penn State’s Daily Collegian features a compelling staff editorial titled “PSU should revise free speech policy.” The editorial focuses on Penn State’s idea, in the “Penn State Principles,” that all Penn State members, simply by being a part of the community, pledge not to “engage in any behaviors that compromise or demean… Read more

  • Free Speech Yet at Penn State?

    November 14, 2007

    Today’s Daily Collegian, Penn State’s student newspaper, ran a story by Lauren McCormack on FIRE’s review and reaffirmation of Penn State’s “red light” speech code rating. Red light schools have at least one policy that both clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech. The story, “PSU free speech comes under ‘fire,’” highlights FIRE’s concern with… Read more

  • Free Speech under Attack during Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week

    October 25, 2007

    This week, as the Terrorism Awareness Project provides speakers at college campuses in order to increase awareness about terrorism of the Muslim extremist variety, the predictable has come to pass: speakers have been prevented by protesters from enjoying their freedom of speech. At Emory University, David Horowitz’s lecture ended prematurely when audience members refused to… Read more

  • FIRE Remembers September 11

    September 11, 2007

    Today, FIRE joins individuals across America and around the world in reflecting upon the tragic events of September 11, 2001. As university students and professors from Maine to California host commemorations today to remember those who suffered and died six years ago, we take a moment to look back at how those events played out… Read more

  • Student Suing Penn State for Art Censorship

    June 21, 2007

    Last April we reported that Penn State censored student Josh Stulman’s senior art exhibit, “Portraits of Terror,” which depicted Palestinian violence in Israeli settlements. Penn State’s reasons for canceling the exhibit ten days before it was set to open were that the exhibit “did not promote cultural diversity or opportunities for democratic dialogue.”   On… Read more

  • Sliding Down the Slippery Facebook.com Slope

    April 4, 2007

    This morning, I nearly choked on my coffee when I read a story in The Daily Collegian that discussed a demand from the NCAA and PSU to a student to shutdown a Facebook.com group that advocated for a prospective student athlete to attend Penn State. According to the article, the student creator of the group, John… Read more

  • Election Day on Campus

    November 7, 2006

    While most universities nominally encourage students’ political activism, several universities have undermined students’ attempts to voice their political opinions in the weeks leading up to the midterm elections.   Lafayette College President Daniel Weiss cancelled a scheduled visit to campus by Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial candidate Lynn Swann, who was invited to speak on campus by… Read more

  • Update on Student Government at Penn State

    October 13, 2006

    In March, FIRE discussed the dubious actions of the Penn State administration in abolishing the student government and replacing it with a weaker version that was supposed to be more functional. Elections for the new student government, UPUA, were held earlier this week and the newly elected UPUA president recently discussed his feelings about the… Read more

  • What 9/11 Taught Us About Academia

    September 11, 2006

    Today, FIRE joins the rest of the nation in remembering the tragic events of September 11, 2001. Five years ago, the events of 9/11 highlighted—in a very ugly way—just how out of touch many universities are with the American public. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, when much of America was still in mourning, a… Read more

  • Penn State: Pulling the Wool over Your Eyes

    May 25, 2006

    Today, in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Penn State attempted to play damage control after significantly altering two patently unconstitutional policies. In what is probably the lamest justification for doing so, the Penn State tried to claim that, “These changes do appear to match up well with the interests of the plaintiff…but the revision would… Read more

  • Penn State Settles Lawsuit

    May 22, 2006

    Today, the Alliance Defense Fund announced that it has settled a portion of its lawsuit against Penn State, which agreed to drop its speech code and clarify other policies. Congratulations to ADF and to our former president and Legal Network attorney David French!   Penn State did the right thing by settling the lawsuit and… Read more

  • Did Penn State Rescind Its Speech Code?

    May 22, 2006

    While being faced with a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of several university policies, Penn State University appears to have rescinded its speech codes.   Sometime over the weekend, with no announcement, Penn State changed two of its policies that were cited in the lawsuit. Penn State’s “AD29 Statement on Intolerance“ no longer bans attitude,… Read more

  • Brandeis Takes a Stab at Art Censorship

    May 3, 2006

    Israeli–Palestinian art is the subject of more controversy this week, this time at Brandeis University. As an article in today’s Boston Globe (membership required) explains, Brandeis pulled an exhibit by Israeli student Lior Halperin, who arranged for Palestinian teenagers to paint images that would bring the Palestinian point of view to the Brandeis campus. The… Read more

  • That Exhibit Is Going to Go Up

    April 26, 2006

    Penn State leaders have reversed the School of Visual Arts’ decision to censor the exhibit of Josh Stulman. The Daily Collegian reports that at a University Faculty Senate meeting yesterday, Penn State President Graham Spanier said, “That exhibit is going to go up. The offer has been extended and may be displayed this spring or… Read more

  • Penn State Gets It Wrong

    April 25, 2006

    Pennsylvania State University administrators are again trampling the rights of their students. On Friday, The Daily Collegian, the campus student newspaper, reported [Link updated by FIRE on 9/27/10 due to disappearance of article on original website] that Penn State’s School of Visual Arts cancelled the opening of a student’s exhibit. Staff writer Jessica Remitz reports:… Read more

  • Penn State: Do the Right Thing

    April 20, 2006

    Recently, Penn State University sent out a press release discussing an event called “Illegal Immigration Awareness Day” being planned by the College Republicans. Although provocative, the event itself is not the interesting part. What is notable are the comments made by the administration concerning the students’ right to hold the event. Terrell Jones, Vice Provost… Read more

  • Penn State to Address the Nuisance of Democracy

    March 21, 2006

    Americans have long considered liberty and democracy the twin essentials for maintaining a free society. At Penn State, administrators are working their hardest to eliminate both of them. When it comes to liberty, Penn State has been deficient for some time. The institution has earned a red light rating on FIRE’s Spotlight for its unconstitutional… Read more

  • The Price of Dissent at Penn State

    March 3, 2006

    Penn State University, which has already been sued for its unconstitutional speech codes, is now further trampling student rights by threatening to dissolve and replace the self-functioning, independent student organization Undergraduate Student Government (USG) with a new student government called the University Park Undergraduate Association (UPUA). Although the matter is rather complicated, a group called… Read more

  • There Is No Such Thing as ‘Hate Speech’

    February 24, 2006

    Yes, that is correct. “Hate speech” is not a category of speech recognized under current constitutional law. It is merely a convenient way to pigeonhole speech that some people find offensive. But what is very troubling is when people begin to treat “hate speech” as unprotected speech. For example, a student leader at Penn State,… Read more

  • Free Speech Lawsuits Filed Against Penn State and Temple

    February 23, 2006

    There’s some good news for students at some of Pennsylvania’s biggest public institutions this week—your institutions just got one step closer to protecting free speech instead of suppressing it. FIRE Legal Network attorney (and former president) David French, now working with the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), has filed a nine-count First Amendment lawsuit against Penn… Read more

  • Phi Beta Kappa Should Prove Its Commitment to Free Speech: Part 2

    January 30, 2006

    In a Wall Street Journal article published earlier this month, writer Daniel Golden tackled the explicitly evangelical Wheaton College, which recently fired a professor for converting to Catholicism. In that article, Golden mentions that the honor society Phi Beta Kappa (PBK) objects to colleges’ violations of free speech and open inquiry. He wrote: Phi Beta… Read more

  • FIRE’s Mitchell in the Harrisburg ‘Patriot-News’

    January 5, 2006

    An important column by FIRE Program Officer Charles Mitchell appears today in the Harrisburg Patriot-News. In response to Rep. Dan Surra’s comment that the Pennsylvania Legislature’s Select Committee on Student Academic Freedom, a committee on which Surra serves, is a “colossal waste of time,” Charles argues for the necessity of the committee. He highlights three… Read more

  • Speech codes make universities intolerant

    January 5, 2006

    Have you ever known a legislator who didn’t think his job was terribly important?Imagine the campaign slogan: “Elect me, because who really cares?” Or the direct-mail letters: “It’d be nice if you sent me a donation — but it doesn’t really matter.” The very concept is ridiculous. But apparently someone forgot to tell that to… Read more

  • Letter from Penn State President Graham B. Spanier to FIRE, October 28, 2001

    October 28, 2001

    October 28, 2001 Alan Charles Kors President Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, Inc. 437 Chestnut Street, Suite 200 Philadelphia, PA 19106 Dear Mr. Kors: Thank you for writing to express your concerns related to First Amendment rights at Pennsylvania State University. As you well know, as a public university we cherish our role as… Read more

  • FIRE Letter to Penn State University President Graham Spanier, October 24, 2001

    October 24, 2001

    October 24, 2001 Graham B. Spanier President Pennsylvania State University University Park, PA 16802 Re: Professor Stephen G. Simpson Dear President Spanier: As you know, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) unites civil rights and civil liberties leaders, scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of liberty,… Read more

  • Letter from Penn State YAF Chairman Jeffery A. Budney FIRE, April 10, 2001

    April 10, 2001

    Dear Mr. Kors: On behalf of Penn State Young Americans for Freedom and all who value liberty in Happy Valley I would like to thank you and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education for your help in our recent dispute with our university’s administration. The support you and your staff provided to us in… Read more

  • FIRE Secures the Rights of Penn State’s Young Americans for Freedom

    March 26, 2001

    PHILADELPHIA—A student group at Penn State University (PSU) won a momentous victory when the University reversed a ruling of the student government that had stripped the group’s constitution and mission statement of words found to be “discriminatory.” The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) urgently brought the case to the attention of Penn State’s… Read more

  • Letter from Penn State President Graham B. Spanier to FIRE, March 12, 2001

    March 12, 2001

    March 12, 2001 Dear Mr. Kors: Thank you for your recent letter regarding your concerns about Penn State’s chapter of Young Americans for Freedom. As you know, I have been out of town until today. I was not aware of the recent decision made by the Undergraduate Student Government.However, upon reviewing information provided by our… Read more