Swarthmore College

Location: Swarthmore, Pennsylvania
Website: http://www.swarthmore.edu
Type: Private
Federal Circuit: 3rd Circuit

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

Speech Code Rating

Swarthmore 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 Handbook: Student Code of Conduct- Bullying and Intimidation

    Speech Code Category: Bullying Policies
    Last updated: January 31, 2018

    Bullying includes any intentional electronic, written, verbal, or physical act or a series of acts of physical, social, or emotional domination that cause physical or emotional harm to another student or group of students. Bullying conduct may not only cause a negative effect on individuals targeted, but also others who observe the conduct. Bullying conduct is severe, persistent, or pervasive and has the effect of doing any of the following:

    (i) substantially interfering with a community member’s education, employment, or full enjoyment of the college;

    (ii) creating a threatening or intimidating environment; or

    (iii) substantially disrupting the orderly operation of the College. Bullying is prohibited, and participating in such acts will result in disciplinary action.


    » Read More

  • Student Handbook: Student Code of Conduct- Banners, Chalkings, and Posters

    Speech Code Category: Posting and Distribution Policies
    Last updated: January 31, 2018

    Harassing, demeaning, uncivil expression, or threats of violence, whether anonymous or signed, will be washed away or removed without notice.

    » Read More

  • Bias Incident, Harassment and Hate Crime Response

    Speech Code Category: Policies on Bias and Hate Speech
    Last updated: January 31, 2018

    Bias incidents are acts of conduct, speech, or expression that target individuals and groups based on their actual or perceived race/color, religion, ethnicity, national origin, gender, gender identity/expression, age, disability, or sexual orientation. Bias-related incidents, while abhorrent and intolerable, do not alone meet the necessary elements required to prove a crime, or even a violation of College policy. However, to be successfully addressed, bias-related incidents do require the active participation of a community committed to fundamental human dignity and equality.

    Information reported on this form may be submitted anonymously and is considered private to the extent permitted by law and/or consistent with the mission of the College and its Code of Conduct.

    Privacy generally means that information related to a report of bias will only be shared with a limited circle of individuals.  The use of this information is limited to those College employees who “need to know” in order to assist in the active review, investigation, or resolution of the report.  While these individuals generally are not confidential resource personnel, they will be discreet and respect the privacy of all individuals involved in the process.

    » Read More

  • Sexual Assault and Harassment Policy

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: January 31, 2018

    Sexual harassment is any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favors, or other unwanted verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when one or more 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 an objective and subjective standard.

    Sexual harassment also includes harassment based on gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, which may include acts of verbal, nonverbal, or physical aggression, intimidation, or hostility based on sex/gender or sex/gender-stereotyping, even if the acts do not involve conduct of a sexual nature.

    Sexual harassment can take many forms. Sexual harassment:

    • may include, but is not limited to sexual advances or request for sexual favors, inappropriate comments, jokes or gestures, or other unwanted verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.

    » Read More

  • Student Handbook: Student Code of Conduct- Harassment Based on a Protected Class

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: January 31, 2018

    Harassment based on a protected class is defined as unreasonable, unwelcome conduct that is based on an individual’s sex, race, color, age, religion, national or ethnic origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, pregnancy, marital status, medical condition, veteran status, disability, or any other College-recognized protected classification. This type of harassment can occur in any form and can be directed at individuals or groups. When appropriate, minor infractions can be resolved informally and with remedial steps, including training, counseling, or mediation. When this harassment objectively and subjectively harms the person by severely, persistently, or pervasively interfering with the person’s educational opportunities, peaceful enjoyment of residence and community, or terms of employment, it is subject to disciplinary action, up to and including expulsion/dismissal.

    » Read More

Green Light Policies
  • Student Handbook: Academic Freedom and Responsibility

    Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression
    Last updated: January 31, 2018

    Membership in the academic community imposes on students, faculty members, administrators, and trustees an obligation to respect the dignity of others, to acknowledge their right to express differing opinions, and to foster and defend intellectual honesty, freedom of inquiry and instruction, and free expression on and off the campus. The right of students to exercise free expression, including peaceful dissent, orderly demonstrations, protests, and picketing, will be respected.

    » Read More

  • Student Handbook: Computer Systems and Networks Acceptable Use Policy

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies
    Last updated: January 31, 2018

    Individuals with access to the Swarthmore College network have the following obligations and responsibilities:

    1. To respect other people and the College’s intellectual environment. Use of the network may not violate College policies, federal, state, or local law, including the laws of defamation, forgery, and harassment.

    » Read More

  • Out of Balance

    April 14, 2016

    By Jake New at Inside Higher Ed Last week, the California Court of Appeals ruled against the University of Southern California in a lawsuit brought by a student suspended for allegedly sexually assaulting a woman during group sex… Read more here.

    » Read More
  • Court Wins for Accused

    November 5, 2015

    By Jake New at Inside Higher Ed Last week, Brandon Austin, a former college basketball player, filed a lawsuit against the University of Oregon for $7.5 million, arguing that administrators there violated his rights when they suspended him over his alleged involvement in a gang rape. Austin was able to transfer to a community college and play basketball there last season, but has since left to (so far, unsuccessfully) pursue a professional basketball career. In the lawsuit, Austin claims that the punishment caused him emotional distress and lessened his chances of one day playing in the National Basketball Association. His […]

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  • SLU Case Highlights the Gray Areas of Campus Sex Assault Investigations

    October 12, 2015

    By Koran Addo at St. Louis Post-Dispatch In March 2014, after a night of partying, two St. Louis University students ended up in bed together at a house off-campus. Two months later, the man got a letter from the university telling him he was under investigation for sexual assault. The investigation carried on for months. During the inquiry, it was never disputed that the woman packed an overnight bag, willingly walked to the man’s house, got into his bed and had sex with him. The pivotal question is whether the man knew the woman was too drunk to consent. Initially, SLU suspended […]

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  • The Debate At Brown

    November 23, 2014

    By KC Johnson at Minding The Campus There are two certainties from the current crusade against due process for students accused of sexual assault. First, in coming years, there will be a higher percentage of convictions, since colleges must use the preponderance-of-evidence and are strongly discouraged from allowing accused students from cross-examining their accusers. Second, because so few due process protections exist in campus tribunals, more of these convictions will involve innocent students—who in turn will pursue legal actions to redeem their reputations and salvage hopes of a post-college career. Several recent developments illustrate both points. First: as FIRE reported, […]

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  • Two Colleges Buy Their Way Out Of Litigation From Accused Student, Prof

    November 21, 2014

    By Greg Piper at The College Fix Apparently wary that a public-relations disaster awaited if their behavior became known in court, two colleges settled claims this week that they unfairly targeted a professor and student for violating sexual-conduct policies. Swarthmore College settled with a student who sued the school for re-opening his sexual-assault case after he was cleared of the charges, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education reports. The re-opened case came “after an unrelated Title IX complaint brought significant negative publicity about the college’s handling of sexual misconduct,” FIRE says. The student’s claims were pretty damning, FIRE says: modifying the charges against him […]

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  • Due Process Win: Swarthmore College Settles Lawsuit With Accused Student

    November 21, 2014

    By Ashe Schow at Washington Examiner Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania has settled a lawsuit brought by a student accused of sexual assault, admitting the school acted unfairly in charging the student. In April 2011, a student identified as John Doe shared a kiss and at a later date “consensual physical encounters” with another student identified as Jane Doe, according to the lawsuit filed earlier this year. On May 1, 2011, Jane came to John’s dorm room and initiated consensual sex. The lawsuit alleges Jane admitted she initiated the encounter. But 19 months later, Jane reported the kiss and initial physical […]

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  • On College Campuses, a Presumption of Guilt

    February 28, 2014

    By Peter Berkowitz at RealClearPolitics SWARTHMORE, Pa. — On Feb. 22, in celebration of its sesquicentennial, Swarthmore College proudly hosted “The Liberal Arts in Action: A Symposium on the Future of Liberal Arts.” In what seemed an unrelated event, a month before, a former Swarthmore student expelled by the college in the summer of 2013 filed a lawsuit in federal court of the eastern district of Pennsylvania. The student, identified as “John Doe,” was found guilty under campus disciplinary procedures of sexual misconduct. (Pseudonyms were used to protect both the accused and the accuser.) His legal complaint alleges that Swarthmore […]

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  • Campus rape accusations an obvious outcome at progressive college (Column)

    April 29, 2013

    I recently read that the people who run Swarthmore College, one of America’s most progressive, diverse and elite educational institutions are covering up sex crimes against their female students. Can this be true? And if so, who do these college administrators think they are? The Catholic Church? A formal complaint has been lodged against the school for failing to report numerous sex crimes on campus as the administration is required to do by federal law. That law is the Clery Act, and Mia Ferguson, class of 2015, says Swarthmore is in direct violation of it. And she isn’t the only […]

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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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  • Compelled Speech and the Veneer of Conformity at Swarthmore College

    July 29, 2016

    Do we as a society still leave room for harmless errors of judgement, for learning opportunities, and for conversation? Do we leave room to question orthodoxy in all its forms? Increasingly, recent events on college campuses indicate that the answer to these questions is a definitive “no.” One of the more disturbing manifestations of this trend is the institutionalization of so-called “bias response systems.” Defining “bias incidents” casts a real-world ideological order over the campus intellectual culture that, increasingly, involves actual punitive measures. Adding to the danger, the term “bias incident” is entirely subjective, and it could be leveled against […]

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  • Swarthmore Policy Allows ‘Deviations’ From Own Procedures, Despite Past Problems

    July 6, 2016

    When I arrived at Swarthmore College in the fall of 2014, I was inundated with commentary about an ongoing federal Title IX investigation into the college, and I was shocked by allegations that Swarthmore systematically ignored cases of sexual assault. It was clear to me that Swarthmore had an inherent conflict of interest in adjudicating cases that might harm its image. The Title IX investigation wasn’t the only source of criticism of Swarthmore’s policies and practices. A male student, proceeding under the pseudonym John Doe, filed a federal lawsuit against Swarthmore in January 2014, alleging that the college had expelled […]

    » Read More
  • Swarthmore Admits Treating Student Accused of Sexual Assault Unfairly, Settles Lawsuit

    November 21, 2014

    As colleges and universities face ever-growing pressure to show that they take the issue of sexual assault seriously, a number of accused students have found themselves steamrolled by unfair and frequently incompetently-run, ends-driven disciplinary proceedings that disregard the procedural protections owed to anyone facing such serious allegations. Over the past year, those students have increasingly taken to the courthouse steps in order to vindicate their rights and expose the flaws in the disciplinary processes they faced. One particularly troubling trend, which often serves as a harbinger of due process violations to come, is universities’ re-opening of closed disciplinary cases for […]

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  • FIRE’s Samantha Harris Speaking at Swarthmore College Next Tuesday

    December 5, 2013

    Students and FIRE supporters in the Philadelphia area are invited to hear Samantha Harris, FIRE’s Director of Policy Research, speak at Swarthmore College this coming Tuesday, December 10. Swarthmore has a “red light” rating in FIRE’s Spotlight Database, and was recently discussed on The Torch after the Swarthmore Independent reported that Swarthmore solicits volunteers to serve on panels for hearings involving allegations of sexual misconduct in a manner that compromises the impartiality of the panels. The Independent has reported on both school and student-led censorship attempts recently at Swarthmore, so this is sure to be a timely event. We hope to see you there! Samantha Harris Speaking at Swarthmore College When: 4:15 […]

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  • Swarthmore Students Asked to Volunteer to Be on Sexual Misconduct Hearing Panel

    October 10, 2013

    Torch readers will already be familiar with some of the procedural safeguards generally missing from sexual misconduct cases tried by campus judiciaries, as well as recent allegations that some college officials are withholding evidence and presuming the guilt of accused students. But on Tuesday, the Swarthmore College student newspaper Swarthmore Independent shed light on another worrying aspect of collegiate procedures in hearings involving allegations of sexual misconduct: At Swarthmore, volunteers are solicited to serve on hearing panels in a manner that compromises the impartiality of the panels. According to the Independent, all Swarthmore students were emailed application forms for the college’s Sexual Assault and Harassment Hearing Panel. Each panel will be […]

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  • The State of Free Speech on Campus: Swarthmore College

    January 25, 2013

    This winter, FIRE is presenting a blog series on the state of free speech at America’s top 10 liberal arts colleges, as ranked by U.S. News & World Report. So far, we have covered speech codes at Williams College and at Amherst College. Today, we will discuss speech codes at U.S. News‘ third-ranked liberal arts college: Swarthmore College. Swarthmore is the first school in this blog series to receive a “red light” rating, which means that it maintains at least one policy that both clearly and substantially prohibits what would otherwise be protected expression. Although Swarthmore is private, its Student […]

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  • Emmett Hogan on 2006: The More Things Change…?

    January 5, 2007

    Emmett Hogan is a student at University of Michigan Law School and a luminary early FIRE employee. As we looked back on 2006 in campus rights and abuses I wanted to check in with him for his thoughts on the past year in FIRE history. This was his thoughtful response: One of FIRE’s most gripping cases from 2006 involved a breathtaking exercise in thought reform by Michigan State University. FIRE publicly challenged what MSU calls a “Student Accountability in Community Seminar” (SAC) which is intended to address student behavior that administrators consider unacceptable; the seminar is successful only when it […]

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