Location: Swarthmore, Pennsylvania
Federal Circuit: 3rd Circuit
Swarthmore College 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 here.
Red Light Policies
Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
Harassment is defined as 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 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.
Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
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.
Sexually harassing behaviors differ in type and severity. Key determining factors are that the behavior is unwelcome, is gender-based, and is reasonably perceived as offensive and objectionable under both a subjective and objective assessment of the conduct.
Speech Code Category: Posting and Distribution Policies
Harassing, demeaning, uncivil expression, or threats of violence, whether anonymous or signed, will be washed away or removed without notice.
Speech Code Category: Bullying Policies
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.
Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies
Individuals with access to the Swarthmore College network have the following obligations and responsibilities:
- To respect other people and the College’s intellectual environment. Use of the network may not violate federal, state, or local law, including the laws of defamation, forgery, copyright/trademark infringement, and harassment. The copying or serving of copyrighted material such as music, movies, and other multimedia is strictly forbidden.
Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression
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.
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, […]» Read More
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 […]» Read More
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 […]» Read More
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 […]» Read More
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 […]» Read More
December 31, 2012
Looking back at what 2012 had in store for the fight for free speech and basic rights on campus, the best I can say is that it was a mixed bag. There were some encouraging signs along the way, but also many setbacks. For instance, for the fifth straight year, my organization (the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE) found a decrease in the number of campus speech codes. This is good news. However, it sounds a little less exciting when you realize that a pretty miserable 62 percent of top colleges maintain what FIRE dubs “red light” (read: very bad) […]» Read More
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 […]» Read More
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 […]» Read More
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 […]» Read More
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 […]» Read More
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 […]» Read More
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 […]» Read More