Southern Methodist University

Location: Dallas, Texas
Type: Private
Federal Circuit: 5th Circuit

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Speech Code Rating

Southern Methodist 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.

At present, FIRE has not been involved in any cases at this school.
Yellow Light Policies
  • Student Handbook: Code of Conduct- Irresponsible Conduct

    Speech Code Category: Policies on Tolerance, Respect, and Civility
    Last updated: November 12, 2018

    Engaging in irresponsible conduct or behavior that does not model good citizenship or reflects poorly upon the Southern Methodist University community.

    » Read More

  • Policy 2.6: Racial and Ethnic Harassment

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: November 12, 2018

    Racial and ethnic harassment includes, but is not limited to:

    Physical, psychological, verbal, and/or written abuse with regard to race, creed or ethnic origin that rises to the level of “fighting words.”

    » Read More

  • Student Handbook: Code of Conduct- Computing and Communications

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies
    Last updated: November 12, 2018

    Violating the University’s Computing and Communications Policy (University Policy 12.3). This includes, but is not limited to transmitting unsolicited information that contains obscene, indecent, lewd, or lascivious material; using University resources for any commercial venture; or violating the Copyright law in any manner.

    » Read More

  • Policy 2.5.1: Title IX Harassment

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: November 12, 2018

    “Sexual harassment” is a form of sex discrimination and means unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when – …

    such conduct has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive working or academic environment or unduly interfering with an individual’s work or academic performance. For purposes of this policy, “undue interference” is defined as improper, unreasonable or unjustifiable behavior going beyond what is appropriate, warranted or natural.

    Sexual harassment includes two categories:

    “Hostile environment sexual harassment” means verbal, physical or visual forms of harassment that are sexual in nature, “sufficiently severe, persistent, or pervasive” and unwelcome. A single, severe incident, such as a sexual assault, could create a hostile environment. A “hostile environment” is often created by a series of incidents.

    6.1. Members of the University community demonstrate insensitivity that necessitates remedial measures when, without establishing a pattern of doing so, they engage in isolated conduct that may give rise to acts of sexual harassment. When University officials become aware that such conduct has occurred or is occurring in their areas, they should direct those engaged in such conduct to undertake Title IX training and, in consultation with the Title IX Coordinator, document the incident and submit the documentation to the Title IX Coordinator.

    6.2. After participating in the Title IX training or after failing or refusing to participate after being directed to do so, a person continues to engage in the conduct, the appropriate University official shall report the facts and circumstances to the Title IX Coordinator. The Title IX Coordinator shall act on the matter in accordance with Section 8 of this Policy.

    » Read More

  • Residence Life & Student Housing: Community Standards- Disruptive Behavior

    Speech Code Category: Other Speech Codes
    Last updated: November 12, 2018

    I understand that any activity that has a negative impact on others will not be tolerated.

    » Read More

Green Light Policies
  • Bias Incident Report

    Speech Code Category: Policies on Bias and Hate Speech
    Last updated: November 12, 2018

    A bias incident is an action, behavior, or expression against an individual’s or group’s actual or perceived identity. Individuals or groups may experience bias based on, but not limited to: age, race, color, sex, sexual orientation, religion, disability, gender identity and expression, national origin, genetic information, or veteran status. Such bias incidents may be intentional or unintentional and affect the individual or SMU community.

    Not all incidents of bias violate the law or SMU policy. However, at times they are out of congruence with our community values of cultural intelligence, mutual respect, and inclusion. The BERT enables SMU to provide support to community members who file a report, keep records of bias incidents, and analyze trends in efforts to continually improve our campus community with regard to our values.

    The BERT does not investigate, arbitrate, or replace other SMU procedures or services. Its purpose is to supplement and work with campus units to connect those who have been a target of an act of bias or those who have witnessed such an act with appropriate support and resources. The new protocol complements but does not substitute for University procedures regarding the reporting of discrimination, including sexual misconduct, to the Office of Institutional Access and Equity ( or 214-768-3601).

    After a report submission, the BERT will designate one of its members to respond to the reporting party within one business day. Upon communication with the reporting party, the BERT will assess the needs of the complainant and determine next steps.

    If the action violates the law or any SMU policy, further action may be taken by the following individuals or offices:

    • SMU Police
    • Office of Institutional Access and Equity
    • Human Resources
    • Office of the Provost
    • Appropriate campus administrators (vice presidents, deans, or supervisors)

    » Read More

  • Student Handbook: Code of Conduct- Harassment

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: November 12, 2018

    Engaging in harassment, whether physical, psychological, verbal, written or digital-based, which is beyond the bounds of protected free speech, and directed at a specific individual(s), and likely to cause an immediate breach of the peace; conduct which threatens the mental health, physical health or security of any person or persons including stalking, intimidation, or threat that unreasonably impairs the security or privacy of another member of the university community.

    Due to the University’s commitment to freedom of speech and expression, harassment is more than insensitivity or conduct that offends or creates an uncomfortable situation for certain members of the community.

    » Read More

  • After students speak up, Southern Methodist University backs down from memorial lawn display policy

    August 18, 2017

    Southern Methodist University says it will update the memorial lawn display policy it cited earlier this summer to justify moving the SMU Young Americans for Freedom’s annual lawn display commemorating the September 11 attacks. The move follows pressure from student groups across the political spectrum, including Mustangs for Life, the Feminist Equality Movement, the College Democrats, the College Republicans, and Turning Point USA. Earlier this month, the policy was updated to move all lawn displays from the Dallas Hall Lawn to the less-trafficked MoMac Park so students could “avoid messages that are triggering, harmful, or harassing.” SMU sent that version […]

    » Read More
  • Southern Methodist University student groups, governor unite against new memorial lawn display regulations

    August 4, 2017

    Since 2015, the Southern Methodist University chapter of Young Americans for Freedom has honored the anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks by displaying 2,977 American flags on the campus’ Dallas Hall Lawn. But when the group sought approval this year for the recurring memorial honoring each life lost on 9/11, they received an unexpected response from the university detailing a new policy which would move the display to the less-trafficked MoMac Park. While university policies regulating the location of large physical displays may be acceptable if written in a viewpoint- and content-neutral way, the policy sent to the YAF […]

    » Read More
  • Amherst College Settles with Student Who Sued Over Withheld Diploma

    January 26, 2015

    Amherst College has settled a lawsuit brought last June by a student identified only as John Doe. Doe filed the lawsuit after the college withheld his diploma because of a sexual assault allegation from 2009 that had long since been resolved—or so he thought. After the allegations arose initially, Doe was placed on medical leave for a year and required to see a psychiatrist before petitioning for readmission. After successfully completing the college’s requirements, Doe was readmitted and continued his studies without incident. Just before graduation, however, in the midst of intense scrutiny by the public and the U.S. Department […]

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  • Censorship Fail at Southern Methodist

    June 13, 2011

    A debate over censorship of Southern Methodist University’s (SMU’s) student newspaper, The Daily Campus, has generated some friction between newspaper staff and SMU administrators. The Daily Campus operates without administrative oversight all year—except for the mail-home summer edition. To obtain the addresses of all incoming freshmen so they can mail the paper to them, The Daily Campus has apparently agreed to administators’ demand of prior review over the content of that issue. This year, the administration reportedly approved all articles except for a piece by Politics Editor Jessica Huseman about a lack of transparency for SMU’s Board of Trustees. When asked […]

    » Read More
  • Episode One: The Phantom Blogger

    May 11, 2005

    Check out this very interesting article by Scott Jaschik in today’s Inside Higher Education about the Phantom Blogger who may have lost her job because of her online frankness. Rita Kirk, the department chairwoman, says that she received complaints about the blog from students and parents, and that she consulted with university lawyers about what to do about it. Kirk describes herself as a strong First Amendment supporter, but she says she worries that the blog violated students’ privacy rights and upset some students. “People need to remember that words can hurt,” Kirk says. We will be looking into this […]

    » Read More
  • YCT stresses importance of free speech

    September 24, 2004

    As president of the SMU chapter of the Young Conservatives of Texas, Brad Julsonnet is on a mission to protect First Amendment rights for students. He and the other members of YCT want SMU students to feel free to express themselves. To encourage freedom of speech, YCT members will be on the west bridge of the Hughes-Trigg Student Center today between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., handing out fliers to accompany 25 stake signs scattered across campus. YCT stresses the importance of being able to use symbolic speech to express opinions. The signs show two images, one of a burning […]

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  • Burning the Cookies: SMU wrong to halt ‘affirmative action sale’

    September 26, 2003

      Famed First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams told a national group of editorial writers last week that threats to the First Amendment these days come more often from the left than the right. It was a provocative statement from Mr. Abrams, himself a man of the left. Yesterday’s action by Southern Methodist University seems to back it up. On Wednesday, SMU officials shut down an “affirmative action bake sale” sponsored by Young Conservatives of Texas. It was a theatrical form of political protest, in which the group sold pastries whose prices were determined by the ethnicity or gender of potential […]

    » Read More