University of Alaska Fairbanks

Location: Fairbanks, Alaska
Type: Public
Federal Circuit: 9th Circuit

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Speech Code Rating

University of Alaska Fairbanks 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.

  • University of Alaska Fairbanks: Complaint Over Student Newspaper’s Articles Results in Months-Long Harassment Investigation

    February 11, 2014

    University of Alaska Fairbanks student newspaper The Sun Star was subjected to sexual harassment investigations nearly a year after Professor Jensine Anahita filed complaints.

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  • University of Alaska: Investigation of Protected Speech

    January 30, 2001

    In a memorandum to the faculty of all campuses of the University of Alaska, President Mark R. Hamilton came to the rescue of Professor Linda McCarriston, a poet and teacher of creative writing who was subjected to administrative interference and investigation because of the content of her work. FIRE brought the details and issues of the case to the attention of the University and secured the rights of unhindered free expression for McCarriston. McCarriston was investigated for offending students with a poem she wrote titled “Indian Girls,” about the sexual abuse of children. FIRE President Alan Kors wrote President Hamilton […]

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Red Light Policies

  • Diversity and Equal Opportunity: Harassment, sexual harassment and hostile work environment

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: April 3, 2017

    What is a hostile environment?

    Hostile environment is defined as sexual conduct that interferes with an individual’s work or academic performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment.

    What is harassment?

    The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines unlawful harassment as “Verbal or physical conduct that degrades or shows hostility or aversion to an individual because of his or her race, color, religion, gender, national origin, age or disability, or that of one’s friends, relatives or associates.” According to the EEOC, the conduct must be “so objectively offensive as to alter the conditions of the victim’s employment.”


    Unlawful harassment

    Unlawful harassment is verbal or physical conduct that degrades or shows hostility or aversion to an individual because of his or her race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, sexual orientation or disability, or that of one’s friends, relatives or associates. Conduct that is so objectively offensive that it alters the conditions of the victim’s employment or educational environment is illegal.

    Examples of unlawful harassment

    • Written or graphic material that demonstrates hostility placed on walls, bulletin boards or circulated through email, on Facebook, or other social media
    • Name calling and slurs
    • Negative stereotyping
    • Insensitive comments
    • Threatening or intimidating acts
    • Jokes that are hostile or demeaning

    When does it cross the line?

    • When it goes beyond simple teasing and offhand comments
    • When it is more than isolated incidents and becomes a pattern of such incidents
    • When it alters the conditions of the victim’s employment or educational opportunities
    • When it culminates in a tangible employment action
    • When it is sufficiently severe or pervasive to create a hostile work environment

    UAF policy: zero tolerance

    The university will not tolerate inappropriate sexual or sexually harassing behavior, and works to prevent such conduct toward its students, employees and applicants for employment. Violation of this policy may lead to discipline of the offending party.

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Yellow Light Policies
  • Housing Handbook: Civility

    Speech Code Category: Policies on Tolerance, Respect, and Civility
    Last updated: April 3, 2017

    You are responsible for respecting the rights of others in the residential community and acting with civility Department of Residence Life housing handbook at all times. Social responsibility is the very foundation of everything we do. Civility means demonstrating mutual respect for all individuals. This includes all interactions between students, student staff, and University administrators. Fighting, delivering threats, and using intimidation toward any person for any reason will not be tolerated. You are responsible for developing and maintaining an atmosphere that promotes social awareness and the social appreciation and support of those who may be different from you. It is an expectation that you actively participate in conflict resolution.

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  • Housing Handbook: General Policies and Procedures- Decorations for Your Room

    Speech Code Category: Posting and Distribution Policies
    Last updated: April 3, 2017

    Possessions or displays that are inconsistent with accepted standards or University policies should not be displayed on the outside of room/apartment doors or in general view of the public. Residents have the right to approach anyone who displays a decoration that they believe to be offensive or obscene in order to discuss their concern and ask for its removal. For example, posters of nude individuals and harassing or intimidating visual materials are generally considered inappropriate. Check with your hall staff if you have questions about what may or may not be appropriate.

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  • Regents’ Policy and University Regulation: Sexual Harassment

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: April 3, 2017

    It is the responsibility of faculty and staff to behave in such a manner that their words or actions cannot reasonably be perceived as sexually coercive, abusive, or exploitative. Sexual harassment also can occur in relationships among equals as when repeated unwelcome advances, demeaning verbal behavior, or offensive physical contact interfere with an individual’s ability to work or study productively.

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  • Student Organizations Handbook: Title IX- Bullying and Cyber-Bullying

    Speech Code Category: Bullying Policies
    Last updated: April 3, 2017

    Bullying and cyber-bull[y]ing are defined as the repeated and/or sever[e] aggressive behaviors that intimidate or intentionally harm or control another person physically or emotionally (and are not protected by freedom of expression). Bullying includes, but is not limited to, comments about race, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation or disability.

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  • Acceptable Use of Online Resources

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies
    Last updated: April 3, 2017

    [S]ome uses which are prohibited or restricted include the following: … sending, replying to, or forwarding unsolicited bulk e-mail (spam, chain mail, etc) … Threatening or harassing communications … Partisan political activity, e.g., sending email supporting a political party or group.

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  • Regents’ Policy and University Regulation: Student Code of Conduct

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: April 3, 2017

    E. Harassment

    Harassment is also defined as behavior that limits the ability of university employees to conduct business. This behavior includes, but is not limited to, verbal abuse, threats, intimidation, and coercion (that is not speech or conduct otherwise protected by the First Amendment). In addition, harassment may be conducted in a variety of mediums, including, but not limited to, physical, verbal, graphic, written, or electronic.

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Green Light Policies
  • Regents’ Policy and University Regulation: Freedom of Speech

    Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression
    Last updated: April 3, 2017

    An environment of free and honest inquiry is essential to the functioning and the mission of the university. The board and the university therefore acknowledge, affirm, and espouse the right of freedom of speech as guaranteed in the Constitutions of the United States and the State of Alaska.

    The university will not limit or abridge any individual’s constitutional right to free speech.

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  • Nutty professor finally loses ‘rape culture’ claim about vagina-shaped building satire

    February 22, 2014

    A professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks has finally lost her nutty, anti-First Amendment sexual harassment complaints against the school’s student newspaper for running a satirical piece about a vagina-shaped building and a straight news article concerning a Facebook page. It only took almost a year. Sine Anahita, a sociology professor and the coordinator of the school’s women and gender studies program, initially filed a sexual harassment complaint against the student paper, The Sun Star, in April 2013, reports the Student Press Law Center (SPLC). The complaint stemmed from an April 1, 2013 article in the student rag — that particular day called […]

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  • Appeal finds in favor of UAF student newspaper in sexual harassment case

    February 12, 2014

    by Westin Morrow FAIRBANKS — The University of Alaska Fairbanks student paper, “The Sun Star” was fully protected by the First Amendment when it ran two articles a faculty member complained constituted sexual harassment, according to an independent review. The independent reviewer, brought in after an appeal by the complainant, came to the same conclusion as the original university inquiry. The university began an inquiry into two articles that appeared in the student newspaper last April after a faculty member complained the articles constituted sexual harassment and created a hostile work environment. One article, which ran as a satirical piece […]

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  • University of Alaska schools reviewed for free speech policies

    January 20, 2014

    FAIRBANKS — The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a nonprofit civil rights group, concluded in a study of United States universities that nearly two thirds of schools maintain policies that infringe on student’s free speech rights. The foundation surveyed 427 policies in place at 427 public and private universities and examined reported cases of recent civil rights issues at those schools. It then rated each school in one of three categories: green light, yellow light or red light. The majority of the school’s surveyed, 250, received red light ratings, the worst possible, while 152 received yellow light scores. Only […]

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  • ‘We Don’t Need That Kind of Attitude’

    December 16, 2005

    Partway through her teacher-training program, Karen K. Siegfried started pulling her red compact car to the far end of the campus parking lot. She didn’t want her professors at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks to see her bumper stickers: One proclaims her opposition to abortion, and the other is emblazoned with the name of one of Alaska’s Republican senators.”It worried me what they could do based on my politics,” says Ms. Siegfried, who had already clashed with education professors over her views on affirmative action and gun control. When Ms. Siegfried disagreed with one professor’s contention that video games […]

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  • The intimidating atmosphere for free speech on campus

    February 19, 2004

    The University of Colorado at Boulder decided to teach us all a lesson about free speech last week, but it may not be the lesson it intended. Administrators there had originally told the College Republicans and the Equal Opportunity Alliance that they could not hold an “affirmative action bake sale” on campus. In case you don’t know, these “bake sales” are protests that have been held across the country which satirize affirmative action by charging Hispanic and black students less for baked goods than white and Asian students. While you may not like this particular form of “guerilla theater,” this […]

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  • The Few, the Brave, and FIRE

    April 13, 2001

    The lead editorial in today’s Wall Street Journal analyzes the moral and civic significance of FIRE’s recent victories at Penn State University and at the University of Alaska.

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  • Due Process Legal Update: Settlements, Trials, and More

    July 27, 2016

    A little over five years ago, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued the “Dear Colleague” letter that ushered in a period of unprecedented federal intervention into colleges’ internal disciplinary systems. In just those five years, students around the country have filed more than 110 lawsuits alleging that they were denied a fair hearing in campus sexual misconduct adjudications. These cases are now working their way through the courts, with new developments happening frequently. This is an overview of the past month’s developments, which include two settlements, a dismissal, a trial, and a number of new complaints, […]

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  • FIRE Explains Student Journalists’ Rights (VIDEO)

    December 1, 2015

    In light of recent high-profile threats to a free student press on college campuses nationwide—including threats to defund student publications for publishing controversial material and banishment of student reporters from public events—FIRE wants to ensure that student journalists know their rights. So today, we’re proud to launch a new video designed to do just that. In our new video, Azhar Majeed, director of FIRE’s Individual Rights Education Program, outlines the differences between press freedoms at public and private universities. As Azhar explains, public institutions are fully bound by the First Amendment, while private colleges that promise free speech owe students […]

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  • VIDEO: University of Alaska Fairbanks Newspaper Investigated for Nearly a Year for Protected Speech

    September 19, 2014

    Last December, I wrote here on The Torch about a University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) professor’s repeated sexual harassment complaints against independent student newspaper The Sun Star. Two articles prompted the complaints: one satirical April Fool’s Day article about a “a new building in the shape of a vagina” and one investigative piece on the “UAF Confessions” Facebook page. After FIRE wrote to the university in January explaining the danger to a free press created by UAF’s months-long investigation into the newspaper’s protected expression, the investigation finally concluded with the correct outcome. The whole ordeal—spanning from April 2013 to February […]

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  • A Year Later, Impact of Feds’ ‘Blueprint’ Comes into Focus

    August 28, 2014

    Last summer, FIRE sounded the alarm about a shockingly broad definition of sexual harassment being pushed by the Departments of Education (ED) and Justice (DOJ) as a “blueprint for colleges and universities throughout the country.” Announced at the conclusion of a year-long investigation into the University of Montana’s sexual assault policies and practices, the resolution agreement and findings letter the feds labeled a “blueprint” defined sexual harassment as “any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature,” including “verbal conduct” (i.e., speech). And this all-encompassing definition wasn’t just a general characterization of sexual harassment; rather, it was the exact policy language that ED and DOJ were requiring the University of Montana to adopt verbatim.

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  • Boring Campuses: Not Just the Fault of Helicopter Parents

    April 16, 2014

    In a new article, Slate’s Rebecca Schuman laments the phenomenon of colleges and universities becoming toned-down, less playful, even boring. Schuman argues that this is in part due to parents over-planning their kids’ lives, leaving them incapable of finding creative ways to have fun when they’re older and on their own: A recent trip back to my beloved alma mater, Vassar—combined with my interactions with students where I teach and some disappointing sleuthing—has made it apparent that much of the unstructured free play at college seems to have disappeared in favor of pre-professional anxiety, coupled with the nihilistic, homogeneous partying […]

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  • Revisions Promised After Oberlin Faculty Object to ‘Trigger Warning’ Policy

    April 11, 2014

    Last month, ‘The New Republic’ published an article by Jenny Jarvie on the growing trend of “trigger warnings,” disclaimers to audiences that the material they are about to view or read might “trigger” the remembrance of past traumas like sexual assault or other violence. The warnings have proliferated on websites—particularly Tumblr posts, blogs, and message boards—in recent years, but now they’re being adopted in other contexts, like syllabi for college courses.

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  • Vindicating Freedom of the Press from Alaska to Wisconsin

    February 25, 2014

    As we celebrate Free Press Week here at FIRE, I find myself thinking back on cases in which FIRE has intervened on behalf of student journalists and protected the freedom of the press that the First Amendment guarantees. I don’t have to look very far back, either. As our work over the past year (including as recently as this month) demonstrates, FIRE is committed to defending student newspapers and media outlets against censorship and ensuring that free press rights can be properly exercised on college and university campuses.

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  • Victory: Free Press Vindicated at University of Alaska Fairbanks

    February 11, 2014

    In a victory for freedom of the press, the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) has cleared The Sun Star student newspaper of any wrongdoing following a prolonged investigation of the newspaper’s content prompted by repeated and meritless complaints from a UAF professor. UAF officials announced the end of the investigation in a letter to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which intervened after the situation had dragged on for more than eight months.

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  • At U. of Alaska Fairbanks, Months-Long Investigations of Student Newspaper Chill Speech

    December 12, 2013

    University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) independent student newspaper The Sun Star is being subjected to an investigation—again—after a faculty member who complained about the paper’s content appealed two separate findings clearing the newspaper of sexual harassment charges based on its content. Although the university has not formally disciplined the newspaper staff, the months-long and burdensome investigations of clearly protected speech are wearing down the newspaper’s editors and are likely to significantly chill future student speech. The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner described the two articles that led to the complaints: The first was a satirical article in the newspaper’s April Fools’ “Fun Star” issue and written about […]

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  • After Removal from Grant Follows Public Criticism of Oil Industry, University of Alaska Professor’s Retaliation Claim Dismissed

    October 21, 2009

    The University of Alaska has dismissed a retaliation claim brought by Professor Richard Steiner, an outspoken critic of the oil industry. Professor Steiner’s claim concerned his removal from a $10,000 research grant administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in 2008, following a press conference held by Steiner in which he criticized NOAA and the University of Alaska (UA) for allowing Shell Oil to be a sponsor of a university conference focusing on offshore development. Following his removal from the NOAA’s “Sea Grant,” which supplied part of Steiner’s salary, UA replaced the funds with its own. Steiner’s grievance, […]

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  • Freezing Free Speech at University of Alaska Fairbanks

    March 27, 2007

    When professors and administrators in the accounting department of University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) began debating the renewal of their program’s accreditation, tenured associate professor Charlie Sparks weighed in, advocating for faculty self-governance and changes in the division’s structure.   Sparks now claims that expressing his views on campus won him a one-way trip to the UAF’s Bristol Bay campus—located in the much smaller, more remote town of Dillingham—via reassignment from School of Management Dean Wayne Marr.   According to signed statements from two students, Marr boasted that exiling a tenured but problematic professor to a remote campus in a […]

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  • Professor Under Review for Saying 9/11 Might Be an ‘Inside Job’

    July 6, 2006

    The provost of the University of Wisconsin at Madison announced last week that the university would conduct a “review” of an instructor who has publicly stated that he believes the 9/11 attacks were an “inside job.” The instructor, Kevin Barrett, was a guest on a radio show last week where he defended his controversial views. Shortly thereafter a state representative called for Barrett’s immediate dismissal and UWM provost Patrick Farrell announced the review of Barrett’s course materials, syllabus, and evaluations.   “Mr. Barrett’s statements regarding the events of Sept. 11 have raised some legitimate concerns about the content and quality […]

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  • Grover Furr Ignores Facts, Again

    September 9, 2005

    In the comments section below my and Azhar Majeed’s Inside Higher Ed article, the infamous Grover Furr makes some outrageous accusations against my and FIRE’s writings.  He claims we do not “substantiate” our claims, that our articles are “dishonest” and that our articles “do not merit publication.”  Here is my response: Professor Furr, In claiming that my and Azhar Majeed’s article is “dishonest” and that we do not “substantiate” our claims, you make multiple unsubstantiated, dishonest, and willfully ignorant statements of your own.  FIRE documents all of its cases and provides access to that information through links to primary documents […]

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  • Linda McCarriston’s Letter to FIRE

    April 9, 2001

    April 9, 2001 Dear Professor Kors: It has not been long since Thor Halvorssen of FIRE phoned my university office and found me alone and very frightened in a cinderblock building at the darkest time of the Alaska winter. Perhaps you can imagine my near disbelief that a voice so named, and with so much purpose, would arrive from the City of Brotherly Love (where my Irish family landed not long ago, fleeing sectarian persecution), promising help! As I wrote almost immediately, that was the first night I had slept more than fitfully since my thought, teaching, and writing had […]

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  • University of Alaska President Proclaims Full Rights of Free Speech

    March 27, 2001

    ANCHORAGE, AK—In a memorandum to the faculty of all campuses of the University of Alaska, President Mark R. Hamilton came to the rescue of Professor Linda McCarriston, a poet and teacher of creative writing subjected to administrative interference and investigation because of the content of her work. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) brought the details and issues of the case to the attention of the University and secured the rights of unhindered free expression for McCarriston. In a sternly worded one-page memorandum of March 13, 2001, Mark R. Hamilton, President of the University of Alaska, ordered that […]

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