University of Denver

Location: Denver, Colorado
Type: Private
Federal Circuit: 10th Circuit

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Speech Code Rating

University of Denver 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.

  • University of Denver: Sexual Harassment Finding Violates Professor’s Academic Freedom in the Classroom

    November 4, 2011

    In April 2011, veteran professor Arthur Gilbert was investigated for sexual harassment after two students anonymously submitted complaints stemming from his course “The Domestic and International Consequences of the Drug War.” Gilbert’s dean, Ambassador Christopher R. Hill, suspended Gilbert from campus while he was investigated by DU’s Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity (ODEO) and Department of Human Resources. ODEO found that Gilbert would have created a hostile environment if his class had been a regular workplace, but acknowledged the special characteristics of the classroom environment and deferred judgment. Hill declared Gilbert guilty, however, without considering Gilbert’s academic freedom or […]

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Yellow Light Policies
  • Office of Equal Opportunity & Office of Title IX Procedures: Harassment

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

    These procedures prohibit discrimination in the form of harassment based, in whole or in part, on any legally protected characteristic (race, color, national origin, age, religion, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, marital status, pregnancy, military enlistment or veteran status). Prohibited harassment includes creating an environment that is sufficiently severe, pervasive or persistent so as to unreasonably interfere with a person’s work, academic performance or participation in University programming/activities. Prohibited harassment may also include, but is not limited to, offensive slurs, jokes, and other offensive oral, written, computer-generated, visual or physical conduct.

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  • Honor Code and Student Conduct Policies & Procedures: University Honor Code Statement

    Speech Code Category: Policies Restricting Freedom of Conscience
    Last updated: September 12, 2018

    All members of the University of Denver are expected to uphold the values of Integrity, Respect, and Responsibility. These values embody the standards of conduct for students, faculty, staff, and administrators as members of the University community. Our values are defined as: … Respect: honoring differences in people, ideas, and opinions …

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  • Office of Equal Opportunity & Office of Title IX: Bias Response

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

    DU defines bias incidents as any behaviors, including speech and gestures, that target individuals or groups based on their actual or perceived group identities, such as race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic background, age, disability, national origin, religion and others. Examples may include, but are not limited to, graffiti, harassment, jokes, direct insults, etc.

    The specific forms, content, motivation/intention and impact of bias incidents vary; but all detract from the inclusive community to which DU is committed. Therefore bias incidents are problematic for everyone within the University and for the University as a whole.

    On their own and/or in combination with other actions, bias incidents may also constitute violations of:

    Thus, beyond the Response Protocol described here, bias incidents may also be subject to investigation and adjudication by other campus offices and/or governmental bodies (e.g., police, EEO, etc).

    1. Reports are received and reviewed by staff of the DU Office of Equal Opportunity & Title IX, who will take action directly, and/or refer to other campus units.

    2. When incidents do not rise to the level of legal or policy violations, and/or when persons/ communities impacted by any incident may need support, they will refer reports to the Bias Incident Response Team (BIRT).

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Green Light Policies
  • Office of Equal Opportunity & Office of Title IX Procedures: Sexual Harassment

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

    These procedures prohibit discrimination in the form of sexual harassment.

    Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature will constitute “sexual harassment” when:

    3. Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s academic or work performance, i.e. it is sufficiently serious, pervasive, or persistent as to create an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment for working or learning under both an objective (a reasonable person’s view) and subjective (the Complainant’s view) standard.


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  • Honor Code and Student Conduct Policies & Procedures: Harassment

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

    Harassment includes, but is not limited to:

    • Bullying, including 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 on observers of said conduct. Bullying conduct is severe, persistent, or pervasive and has the effect of substantially interfering with a community member’s education, employment, or full enjoyment of the University; creating a threatening or intimidating environment; or substantially disrupting the orderly operation of the University.

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  • Honor Code and Student Conduct Policies & Procedures: Protests & Demonstrations Statement

    Speech Code Category: Protest and Demonstration Policies
    Last updated: September 12, 2018

    Protests & Demonstrations Statement. The University recognizes the right to freedom of expression and the free interchange of ideas, including the right to peaceful and orderly protests and demonstrations. The University also recognizes that protests and demonstrations should not disrupt University operations, restrict movement of members of the University Community on and around campus, and/or interfere with the safety or security of members of the University Community. Students are expected to uphold the policies contained within the Honor Code, other University Policies, as well as applicable laws, and will be held accountable for any violations, including, but not limited to University policies of Interference, Non Compliance, and Property Damage. The University values providing students the opportunity to exercise these rights and the Division of Campus Life and Inclusive Excellence desires to help students do so effectively. Students should reach out to the Director for Student Engagement for assistance in this regard.

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  • Vision and Values

    Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression
    Last updated: September 12, 2018

    The mission of the University of Denver is to promote learning by engaging with students in advancing scholarly inquiry, cultivating critical and creative thought and generating knowledge.

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  • War Criminal or Role Model? Madeleine Albright as Scripps College Commencement Speaker Hits a Nerve

    May 9, 2016

    By Rosanna Xia at LA Times Perhaps the most nerve-racking duty of a senior class president at Scripps College in Claremont is securing a speaker for commencement. And Jennie Xu thought she had nailed it by booking Madeleine Albright, the first woman to serve as U.S. secretary of State… Read more here.

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  • Reload and Fight

    December 13, 2011

    A University of Denver professor plans to teach the same course next spring on the domestic and international consequences of the drug war that led to two anonymous student complaints, resulting in his being suspended this year for more than 100 days. The complaints centered on a few sexual references that civil liberties groups say were completely harmless and should never have led to any action being taken against the professor. Following the suspension, the course was taught by three other instructors, including a graduate student. That decision by university administrators against Arthur N. Gilbert, associate professor at the Josef […]

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  • College ignoring professor’s freedom

    November 28, 2011

    by Bob Kellogg OneNewsNow The University of Denver is refusing to reconsider its violation of the academic freedom of a professor who has been teaching for 50 years. Professor Arthur Gilbert was placed on administrative leave after anonymous complaints were filed about his making statements in class that constituted sexual harassment. But even though his peers conducted an investigation that found the charges were without merit, the school refuses to reconsider its decision. “The university actually declined to take into account the fact that his academic peers did not believe that he had done anything wrong,” notes Robert Sibley of the Foundation […]

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  • University of Denver Keeps Watchful Eye Over Free Speech Wall—With a Camera

    November 11, 2016

    The University of Denver (DU) maintains a “free speech wall” for students to use to express themselves in paint—a common feature on college campuses, often taken the form of a wall or a rock. But now, after someone used the wall to paint lyrics from a punk rock song (Minor Threat’s “Guilty of Being White”) and altered a “Black Lives Matter” message, DU has placed restrictions on what the wall may be used for. And they’ve added a camera: Students or organizations are encouraged to identify themselves in the message. We expect our community to stand behind their words and […]

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  • What Campus Leaders Had To Say About Free Speech This Week [UPDATED]

    October 7, 2016

    Campus leaders have recently been taking advantage of opportunities—sometimes under pressure—to explain their approach to freedom of speech and other principles enshrined in the First Amendment. How did they fare with such tests this week? The Good Washington State University (WSU) Members of WSU’s administration—President Kirk Schulz, Provost and Executive Vice President Dan Bernardo, and Interim Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Melynda Huskey—penned a “message on Free Speech” that went out to WSU students this week. In it, they reminded students of the university’s role in the free exchange of ideas: Public universities are uniquely suited […]

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  • Speech Code of the Month: University of Denver

    October 12, 2015

    FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for October 2015: University of Denver (DU). DU’s Student Conduct Policies contain a ban on “disrespect.” This “includes, but is not limited to” any “[b]ehaviors or acts which are discourteous, vulgar, obscene, or abusive, or which produce or attempt to produce ridicule, embarrassment, or intimidation as a result.” Although DU is private, it claims—in the very same Student Conduct Policies—to value “freedom of inquiry and expression.” But requiring all expression to be courteous and respectful completely undermines the ability of students and faculty to engage in the kind of free and open […]

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  • The End to My ‘Sexy’ Academic Career

    July 26, 2013

    Madeline Gootman is a FIRE summer intern. As most of my friends will tell you, I am an outspoken young woman when it comes to matters of sexuality and sexual health. I recently joined the Vanderbilt Peer Sex Educators, an organization of students formed to increase the campus dialogue surrounding sexual health. In addition to my extracurriculars surrounding sexuality (I also work at the Women’s Center on campus), I am majoring in Women and Gender Studies. After hearing about my very feminist list of extracurriculars, a reasonable person might assume that I would not have a problem with the May […]

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  • Four Key Points About Free Speech and the Feds’ ‘Blueprint’

    July 15, 2013

    It’s been more than two months since FIRE and the higher ed community were shocked by a letter issued jointly by the Departments of Education and Justice to the University of Montana. FIRE staff have blogged extensively about the Departments’ “blueprint” for campus sexual harassment in the last 10 weeks, but there are four crucial points that I believe bear special emphasis. 1. Overbroad and vague harassment rationales have been the primary justification and legal theory behind campus speech codes since the 1980s.  In one sense, the attempt to stretch the definition of harassment beyond all recognition is nothing new. Speech codes came into vogue on campuses […]

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  • Please Explain Why Putting University Administrators in Charge of Judging Speech Is a Good Idea

    July 9, 2013

    My colleagues have done a thorough job of explaining why defenders of the Department of Education’s “blueprint” for preventing campus sexual harassment are on very shaky legal and logical ground. They have pointed out that some of ED’s allies have misquoted the findings letter and mocked Senator John McCain’s serious questions about the threat to free speech and about OCR’s authority to impose this blueprint. Other defenders of the blueprint have brushed away concerns by portraying its definition of sexual harassment as “any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature” as simply a way of encouraging reporting. Instead of talking past […]

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  • U. of Denver Hides Behind Title IX to Justify Persecution of Veteran Professor

    January 11, 2013

    Throughout the maddening case of veteran University of Denver (DU) Professor Arthur Gilbert, the DU administration has employed a “trust us” defense when questioned about its repeated, well-documented violations of Gilbert’s rights to free speech, academic freedom, and due process. Gilbert was suspended from the DU campus for more than 100 days and found guilty of sexual harassment based on the content of his graduate-course lectures. DU has refused to consider the academic context of the case over the objections of FIRE, DU’s Faculty Review Committee, the American Association of University Professors (both the national organization and the DU chapter), […]

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  • DU ‘Clarion’ Highlights University’s Appearance in ‘Unlearning Liberty’

    November 8, 2012

    The Clarion, the student newspaper at the University of Denver (DU), has published an article noting the inclusion of DU professor Arthur Gilbert’s case in FIRE president Greg Lukianoff’s new book Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate. Given the outrageousness of Gilbert’s treatment by DU, that inclusion is well deserved. Clarion reporter Anita Balakrishnan does a good job explaining DU’s prosecution of Professor Gilbert for sexual harassment and the opposition it encountered. (Readers can also acquaint themselves with the case by reading this chronology.) Gilbert’s ordeal started after the submission of two anonymous complaints by students […]

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  • U of Denver Faculty Senate to Administration: Vacate Tenured Professor’s ‘Harassment’ Finding

    May 30, 2012

    For more than a year now, Professor Arthur Gilbert, a tenured professor in the University of Denver’s (DU’s) Josef Korbel School of International Studies, has been fighting for his free speech and academic freedom against DU’s gross intrusions and disregard for due process. As we first documented here in the fall, Gilbert was summarily removed from the DU campus after two students submitted anonymous complaints that he had created a hostile environment while teaching his graduate course “The Domestic and International Consequences of the Drug War.” In ultimately finding Gilbert guilty, DU disregarded a scathing report from DU’s Faculty Review […]

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  • Univ. of Denver Fails to Scare Prof Away from Teaching Drug War Course

    January 11, 2012

    Cory Lamz, Editor-in-Chief of the University of Denver (DU) student newspaper The Clarion, writes this week, as FIRE reported recently, that international studies professor Arthur Gilbert will again teach his course on “The Domestic and International Consequences of the Drug War.” This is no small thing, given that when Gilbert—whose service to DU spans roughly 50 years—taught the graduate-level course last year, two students submitted anonymous complaints of sexual harassment over the allegedly sexualized nature of the course topics and teaching, despite the ample warning given on the course’s syllabus. Gilbert was never allowed to see the complaints for himself. […]

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  • U. of Denver’s Shame in ‘Inside Higher Ed’

    December 14, 2011

    Following FIRE’s Monday press release, Inside Higher Ed has published an article on the poor climate for academic freedom in light of the University of Denver’s (DU’s) action against a professor. Following two anonymous complaints over his teaching of a graduate-level course on “The Domestic and International Consequences of the Drug War,” DU charged tenured professor Arthur Gilbert with sexual harassment and suspended him from campus pending an investigation. DU ultimately declared Gilbert, a tenured professor with decades of service to DU’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies, guilty of sexual harassment. It did so despite the reservations of its […]

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  • University of Denver Calls Teaching ‘Sexual Harassment,’ Ignores Faculty; AAUP Launches Inquiry

    December 12, 2011

    DENVER, December 12, 2011—University of Denver Professor Arthur N. Gilbert is daring to teach his “Drug War” course again after the university violated his academic freedom and suspended him earlier this year, deeming his teaching about sexual issues to be “sexual harassment.” Over the objections of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a faculty committee, and the University of Denver chapter of the American Association of University Professors (DU AAUP), DU refuses to correct its error. On November 30, the national AAUP opened an inquiry into the case. “To remove a professor from the university without any hearing on the […]

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  • University of Denver Professor’s Plight Featured in ‘The Denver Post’

    December 1, 2011

    FIRE has been closely following the case of University of Denver (DU) professor Arthur Gilbert, who was investigated and found guilty of sexual harassment after two anonymous students complained about the content of his course, “The Domestic and International Consequences of the Drug War.” In The Denver Post yesterday, reporter Kevin Smith highlighted the due process and academic freedom concerns raised by DU’s handling of this case. He quotes FIRE’s own Peter Bonilla on the subject: “[T]he University of Denver was not interested in the academic freedom issues of his case,” said Peter Bonilla, assistant director of FIRE’s individual rights […]

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  • Concerns raised about academic freedom over University of Denver professor’s punishment

    November 30, 2011

    Others at DU come to defense of punished professor by Kevin Simpson The Denver Post   A charge of sexual harassment that resulted in the suspension of a University of Denver professor last spring has spiraled into an argument over academic freedom that has attracted national attention. The school found that Arthur Gilbert, a tenured professor at DU’s Korbel School of International Studies, “created a sexual harassment hostile environment” in a class he taught for more than 20 years called “The Domestic and International Consequences of the Drug War.” Responding to complaints from two graduate students, the university investigated nine […]

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  • University of Denver Student Speaks out Against Punishment of Professor

    November 21, 2011

    The punishment of Professor Arthur Gilbert, a University of Denver (DU) faculty member with more than 50 years of teaching experience, has provoked much outrage from the community. The fact pattern of his case makes this reaction understandable. Gilbert was suspended from the DU campus and investigated on the basis of two anonymous complaints about the allegedly sexualized nature of his course on the history of America’s drug wars and the negative effects of “purity crusades” (this content was made clear in the course’s syllabus). The investigation, conducted by human resources administrators, found that in a regular workplace, his discussion […]

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  • University of Denver Refuses to Reconsider Violation of 50-Year Veteran Professor’s Academic Freedom

    November 18, 2011

    Over the objections of FIRE, a faculty committee, and the University of Denver Chapter of the American Association of University Professors (DU AAUP), the University of Denver (DU) has refused to reconsider its violation of Professor Arthur N. Gilbert’s academic freedom. DU had suspended Gilbert earlier this year after receiving anonymous complaints of sexual harassment about his class, but all of the comments in question were based on academic material relevant to the class. Although DU claims in a letter to FIRE that it “carefully” investigated the claims, DU never evaluated Gilbert’s comments in the context of the classroom environment. Professor Gilbert is […]

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  • University of Denver AAUP Echoes Call to Restore Academic Freedom to DU

    November 15, 2011

    In a letter to the University of Denver’s provost and president on November 12, 17 members of the University of Denver chapter of the American Association of University Professors (DU AAUP) echoed FIRE’s concern for academic freedom in the case of DU professor Arthur Gilbert, whom DU found guilty of sexual harassment for relevant classroom comments that apparently were never investigated from an academic perspective. That’s really important: context matters a huge amount. There are a lot of things you can and should say in a class about moral taboos that probably have no reason to come up in, say, […]

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  • Carroll: Prof’s rights disregarded by DU

    November 5, 2011

    by Vincent Carroll The Denver Post   Shouldn’t a fellow who’s been on the job for 50 years — and who’s been touted occasionally by his university employer in public promotions — be allowed to tell his story before anonymous complaints drive him from the classroom? Shouldn’t he be questioned first even if the complaints allege, according to the dean of his school, that he’d created “a sexual harassment hostile environment” in his classroom? In fact, shouldn’t his version of events be especially relevant under the circumstances, given the damage such allegations could inflict on his reputation? University of Denver […]

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  • University of Denver Attacks Academic Freedom With Punishment of 50-Year Veteran Professor

    October 27, 2011

    The Chronicle of Higher Education‘s Peter Schmidt reports this week on a deeply troubling case involving a tenured professor at the University of Denver. DU Provost Gregg Kvistad has largely affirmed the punishment of Professor Arthur N. Gilbert over the objections of a faculty committee, which cited serious concerns about academic freedom and due process in DU’s suspension of the professor after receiving anonymous complaints alleging that he created a hostile sexual environment in his class. Having followed Gilbert’s grievance for several weeks now, we had hoped that DU would pay heed to the concerns of the faculty committee reviewing […]

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