San Diego State University

Location: San Diego, California
Type: Public
Federal Circuit: 9th Circuit

Speech Code Rating

San Diego State 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.

Yellow Light Policies
  • Standards for Student Conduct 13-14

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

    Students are expected to be good citizens and to engage in responsible behaviors that reflect well upon their university, to be civil to one another and to others in the campus community, and contribute positively to student and university life.

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  • Housing and Residential Education Policies & Regulations: Physical Abuse and Harassment 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    Abusive physical and verbal behavior, and threats of physical abuse toward residents, guests, or staff, are violations of policy and will not be tolerated. Such conduct may be grounds for immediate judicial action, removal from the residence hall, eviction, and/or criminal prosecution. Examples of prohibited conduct include, but are not limited to sexual and racial harassment, threats of violence, sexual assault, fighting, punching, slapping, kicking, scratching and pushing. Practical jokes and pranks or other disruptions are prohibited in the campus community.

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  • Executive Order 1072: Implementation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and Related Sexual Harassment/Violence Legislation for CSU Students 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    “Sexual Harassment” is unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that includes, but is not limited to: sexual violence; sexual advances; requests for sexual favors; indecent exposure; and other verbal, nonverbal or physical unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature, where such conduct is sufficiently severe, persistent or pervasive that its effect, whether or not intended, could be considered by a reasonable person in the shoes of the individual, and is in fact considered by the individual, as limiting the individual’s ability to participate in or benefit from the services, activities or opportunities offered by the university. Sexual harassment also includes gender-based harassment, which may include acts of verbal, non-verbal or physical aggression, intimidation or hostility based on sex or sex-stereotyping, even if those acts do not involve conduct of a sexual nature.

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  • Office of Employee Relations & Compliance: Sexual Harassment 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    Sexual harassment shall be any conduct, physical or verbal, that is sexual and has the effect of unreasonably interfering with a person’s or a group’s educational or work performance or that creates an intimidating, hostile, or abusive educational or work environment.

    The California Education Code, sec. 212.5, states: “Sexual harassment means unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, visual, or physical conduct of a sexual nature, made by someone from or in the work or educational setting, under any of the following conditions:” … “The conduct has the purpose or effect of having a negative impact upon the individual’s work or academic performance, or of creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work or educational environment.”

    Examples of sexually harassing conduct may include but shall not be limited to the following: (a) sexual assault, (b) derogatory comments of a sexual nature, (c) displaying sexually suggestive pictures or objects, (d) graphic verbal commentaries about a person’s body, (e) impeding or blocking movements, (f) jokes of a sexual nature, (g) slurs of a sexual nature, (h) suggestive gestures, (i) unwelcome touching. Some of these examples may not, however, constitute sexual harassment if appropriate to reasonable academic purposes.

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  • Student Organization Handbook: Harassment and Abusive Behavior 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    Officially recognized organizations may not engage in any organizational activity that makes specific members of the campus community the subject of harassment, intimidation, or hostility because of their race, religion, color, ethnicity, citizenship, gender, gender identity or expression, disability, sexual orientation, or national origin.

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  • Student Responsibilities for Academic Computer Use 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies

    Communication through electronic mail should be encouraged and supported in the same manner as in classrooms, publications, and correspondence through standard hard copy mail. Professional codes of conduct shall prevail, and users shall adhere to standards of civil communication.

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  • Standards for Student Conduct 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies

    Use of computing facilities and resource to send obscene or intimidating and abusive messages.

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Green Light Policies
  • Student Organization Handbook: Outdoor Spaces and Events 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Protest and Demonstration Policies

    Free speech/expression activity is permitted on campus subject to time, place, and manner requirements. Within the context of this policy, free speech/expression activity includes, but is not limited to, pure or symbolic speech, assembly, meetings, demonstrations, picketing, petitioning, chalking, mime, survey research, and religious or political activity. The use of tables, chairs, canopies, or other structures in connection with on-campus free speech/expression activity requires prior campus approval (see Chapter 4, page 6).
    1. Time. No time restrictions during normal building hours, Monday through Friday, 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. (holidays accepted). Individuals and organizations planning free speech/expression activities are encouraged to notify Student Life & Leadership of any planned activity at least 48 hours in advance.
    2. Place. To ensure the personal safety of students, faculty, staff and campus guests, and to maintain an atmosphere conducive to the educational mission of the university, the residence halls and their adjacent grounds, parking lots and related structures and their pedestrian and vehicular access points are off-limits to all activities other than those specifically intended for those facilities. Chalking is limited to the Open Air Theatre Walkway.
    3. Manner. All applicable federal, state, and local laws, and university policies and regulations must be obeyed.

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  • Executive Order 1074: Systemwide Policy Prohibiting Discrimination, Harassment and Retaliation Against Students 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    Harassment means unwelcome conduct engaged in because of a Protected Status that is sufficiently severe, persistent or pervasive that its effect, whether or not intended, could be considered by a reasonable person in the shoes of the Student, and is in fact considered by the Student, as limiting the Student’s ability to participate in or benefit from the services, activities or opportunities offered by the University.

    Sexual Harassment, as defined in California Education Code 212.5, consists of both non-sexual conduct based on sex or sex-stereotyping and conduct that is sexual in nature, and includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, visual, or physical conduct of a sexual nature where: … The conduct is sufficiently severe, persistent or pervasive that its effect, whether or not intended, could be considered by a reasonable person in the shoes of the Student, and is in fact considered by the Student, as limiting the Student’s ability to participate in or benefit from the services, activities or opportunities offered by the University.

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  • Standards for Student Conduct 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies, Statement

    Conduct that threatens or endangers the health or safety of any person within or related to the University community, including

    1. physical abuse, threats, intimidation, or harassment.

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  • Justice Elusive in San Diego State Sexual Assault Case

    November 6, 2014

    By Angela Carone at KPBS It was after midnight on a Friday in September 2007 when Jennifer ran out of the Sigma Pi fraternity house onto the street near the campus of San Diego State University. A 20-year-old junior at SDSU, she was crying and frantic. She was barefoot and didn’t have a purse. She didn’t care. She was trying to get away. She thought her boyfriend was chasing her, something he “always did.” They’d been together for nine months; he lived in the house. He’d choked her in the past. The night before, Jennifer says she’d experienced his most […]

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  • San Diego State’s President Talks A Good Game On Free Speech- But That’s All

    October 30, 2014

    By Greg Piper at The College Fix The president of San Diego State University, Elliot Hirshman, penned a laudable article for the Huffington Post about the importance of free speech on college campuses. Now he just needs to make his own institution practice what it preaches. Hirshman starts his piece in an odd way, implying that university policies in general uphold the principles of free speech, which is laughably naive: Our policy on free expression at San Diego State University is similar to those at universities and colleges across the nation. He calls it “critical to present a range of perspectives so students can understand issues […]

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  • The protected flag

    March 8, 2007

    What is quite possibly the strangest flag-desecration controversy in American history is afoot right now at San Francisco State University. It’s strange for several reasons, firstly because the right to torch, stomp, or otherwise annihilate a flag was asserted nearly 18 years ago by the Supreme Court in Johnson v. Texas, and should be pretty much settled by now. Not here, though, where a chapter of College Republicans could be disbanded for allegedly inciting hostility via an act of flag desecration. Their hearing is this Friday. The whole event is stranger still because the flags in question are not American […]

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  • College Athletes Caught in Tangled Web

    May 24, 2006

    Four San Diego State students recently logged on to a computer and did what thousands of other college students do these days during their spare time. They were having fun on, posting personal party pictures and commentaries about life in college. Some included references to drinking alcoholic beverages and snide remarks about recent soccer practices, according to a student colleague of the four. But because the four students were athletes – in this case women’s soccer players – they suffered a penalty for it. When they didn’t heed their coach’s warning to stop posting on the site, they were […]

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  • Free speech policy called into question

    October 24, 2005

    As an American citizen, one has a constitutional right to have and state opinions, but officials at college campuses around the country say there is a time and a place for it. This issue is not foreign to San Diego State. Free speech zones began to appear on college campuses during the 1980s as a way for university administrators to allow students to voice their opinions and put on demonstrations without inhibiting the surrounding learning environment, according to a May 2003 Associated Press article ,”Schools under fire for ‘free speech zones.’” But many believe the idea of “free-speech zones” on […]

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  • Codes censor speech

    September 1, 2005

    Given the section you are reading, it should come as no surprise that I describe myself as a very opinionated person. But, as somewhat of a pessimist, my columns usually focus on what’s wrong with policy X or ideology Y, and my usual targets are conservative, right-wing issues. I tend to focus on criticizing the right-wing because of its current political prominence. However, I have a confession to make: There are many liberal left-wing ideas I’m equally unimpressed with, but haven’t written about. For example, I disapprove of gay adoptions, believe immigration laws should be inflexible and feel popular feminists […]

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  • Academic freedom ever important

    April 11, 2005

    Besides really irritating a lot of people, University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill’s essay on the causes of the World Trade Center attacks has put a media spotlight on the issue of freedom of expression on college campuses. This in itself is a very good thing. Whatever one’s opinion of the content of Churchill’s essay (and some of the logic does sound highly suspect to me), he was well within his rights to release a controversial analysis of the attacks into the academic community. This ability to participate in an unrestricted exchange of ideas is called academic freedom, and it […]

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  • Thought Police Spring to Action on the Campus

    November 26, 2001

    By Jonathan Yardley at The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

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  • The Death of Free Speech in Higher Ed

    October 31, 2001

    By Andrea Neal at The Indianapolis Star

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  • Supreme Court Declines Cert in ‘Alpha Delta,’ Allowing Ninth Circuit’s Unfortunate Ruling to Stand

    March 21, 2012

    This week, the Supreme Court of the United States decided not to grant certiorari in the case of Alpha Delta v. Reed, declining the appeal request of two religious student organizations at San Diego State University (SDSU). The Supreme Court’s decision lets stand a 2011 ruling from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that found SDSU not to have violated the First Amendment rights of the student groups, a Christian fraternity and sorority, by denying them official recognition. The Ninth Circuit held that the university’s actions, under a determination that the groups’ requirement that members share […]

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  • A Roundup of 2011’s Free Speech Case Law

    December 28, 2011

    While FIRE has won numerous victories this year in working to protect individual rights on college campuses, 2011 was a mixed year for the defense of students’ rights by the courts. Importantly, this year highlighted divergent theories of the First Amendment rights of students off campus. While some courts have held that schools are limited by the First Amendment in what they can regulate off campus, other courts this year held that things students say off campus can have almost unlimited disciplinary consequences on campus. This is a troubling trend, outlined in several cases below. In June, the United States […]

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  • SDSU Speech Codes Highlighted in ‘The Daily Aztec’

    October 28, 2011

    In an insightful piece this week, San Diego State University (SDSU) student and The Daily Aztec managing editor Beth Elderkin investigates two of SDSU’s several “yellow light” speech codes. Elderkin interviewed our own Will Creeley, as well as UCLA law professor and constitutional law expert Eugene Volokh, who agree that the two policies in question are problematic: According to FIRE’s director of legal and public advocacy, Will Creeley, the problem with the two harassment and abuse policies is certain words are too ambiguous. This is something UC Los Angeles constitutional law professor Eugene Volokh said could lead to a violation of […]

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  • Christian Legal Society Chapter Settles Freedom of Association Lawsuit with University of Montana School of Law

    August 18, 2011

    Less than two weeks ago, we reported on a decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that held that San Diego State University did not violate the First Amendment right to freedom of association of two student groups, a fraternity and a sorority, by denying those groups official recognition (and the attendant benefits of recognition) for allegedly violating the school’s nondiscrimination policy. The case, Alpha Delta v. Reed (.PDF), was merely the latest to test whether an expressive student organization at a public university has the right to restrict membership and leadership to those students […]

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  • San Diego State University Upgraded From ‘Red Light’ Status

    August 17, 2011

    San Diego State University (SDSU) has been upgraded by FIRE from a “red light” to a “yellow light” school, reports the student newspaper The Daily Aztec. The change comes as the result of the complete removal of a policy that heavily restricted the content of emails sent via SDSU’s network or computers. The former policy banned the transmission of “unsolicited information which contains obscene, offensive or discriminatory material” and “inappropriate” mailing list entries. In so doing, the former policy prohibited a substantial amount of speech that SDSU, as a public university, is legally bound to protect under the First Amendment. We […]

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  • ‘California Watch': No Free Speech at California Colleges

    January 7, 2011

    Free speech is not safe at California colleges—not by a long shot. That’s what investigative reporter Erica Perez found in FIRE’s 2011 speech code report, as she wrote yesterday for California Watch: A new report from a national free speech advocacy organization found most of the four-year universities it surveyed had speech codes that substantially limit students’ freedom of speech, including dozens of colleges in California. […] Of the 33 California universities the organization rated, 64 percent got a red light, including San Diego State University, UC Santa Cruz and Claremont McKenna College. About 36 percent got a yellow light, including UC Berkeley, Occidental College and San Jose State University. […]

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  • 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 number of very prominent universities moved swiftly to suppress displays of public sympathy and patriotism by students and faculty. Here are some examples of university actions in September and October 2001: At Central Michigan University, an administrator told several students to remove various patriotic posters […]

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