University of Houston

Location: Houston, Texas
Type: Public
Federal Circuit: 5th Circuit

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Speech Code Rating

University of Houston 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.

At present, FIRE has not been involved in any cases at this school.

Red Light Policies

  • Administrative Memorandum No. 01.D.07: Discrimination and Harassment Policy

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: December 13, 2017

    Harassment — Defined as subjecting an individual on the basis of her or his membership in a Protected Class to unlawful severe and pervasive treatment that constitutes: * Humiliating, abusive or threatening conduct or behavior that denigrates or shows hostility or aversion toward an individual or group; * An intimidating, hostile or abusive learning, living or working environment or an environment that alters the conditions of learning, living or working; or * An unreasonable interference with an individual’s academic or work performance.

    Harassment that satisfies this legal standard includes, but is not limited to, epithets or slurs, negative stereotyping, threatening, intimidating or hostile acts, denigrating jokes and display or circulation (including through e-mail) of written or graphic material in the learning, living or working environment.

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Yellow Light Policies
  • Student Code of Conduct: Violation of Established Student Housing and Residential Life Policies, Procedures and/or License Agreements

    Speech Code Category: Posting and Distribution Policies
    Last updated: December 13, 2017

    Displaying obscene (as defined by Texas or federal law) or discriminatory information/materials that cause, or would be reasonably likely to cause, mental harm to another or that is in violation of University policies.

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  • Administrative Memorandum No. 01.D.08: Sexual Misconduct Policy

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: December 13, 2017

    Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that includes verbal, written or physical behavior of a sexual nature, directed at someone, or against a particular group, because of that person’s or group’s sex, or based on gender stereotypes, when that behavior is unwelcome, severe or pervasive, and where it meets either of the following criteria:

    … The behavior has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with another’s work or educational performance by creating an intimidating or hostile environment for employment, education, on-campus living or participation in a University-affiliated activity. Examples of this type of sexual harassment can include, but is not limited to:
    1) Persistent unwelcome efforts to develop a romantic or sexual relationship;
    2) Unwelcome commentary about an individual’s body or sexual activities;
    3) Unwanted sexual attention;
    4) Repeatedly engaging in sexually-oriented conversations, comments or horseplay, including the use of language or the telling of jokes or anecdotes of a sexual nature in the workplace, office or classroom, even if such conduct is not objected to by those present; or
    5) Gratuitous use of sexually-oriented materials not directly related to the subject matter of a class, course or meeting even if not objected
    to by those present.

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  • Student Code of Conduct: Mental or Bodily Harm

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: December 13, 2017

    (a) Intentionally inflicting mental or bodily harm upon any person; (b) taking any action for the purpose of inflicting mental or bodily harm upon any person; (c) taking any reckless, but not accidental, action from which mental or bodily harm could result to any person; (d) engaging in conduct, including, but not limited to stalking, that causes a person to believe that the offender may cause mental or bodily harm; (e) any act which demeans, degrades, or disgraces any person and that causes, or would be reasonably likely to cause, mental or bodily harm.

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Green Light Policies
  • Policy 10.03.01: Acceptable Use of Information Resources

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies
    Last updated: December 13, 2017

    Users are responsible for respecting the rights of other users by not engaging in any behavior that creates an unlawfully hostile environment for other individuals.

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  • Policy 13.01.01: Freedom of Expression

    Speech Code Category: Protest and Demonstration Policies
    Last updated: December 13, 2017

    Those who wish to engage in an expressive activity (including literature distribution) may engage in such expressive activity in the University’s common areas (e.g., University parks and sidewalks) without prior registration or approval. … If an expressive activity attracts an audience of 25 or more people, disrupts University business or classes, blocks building access, or creates traffic hazards, the expressive activity may be required to be relocated to another area on campus that can better accommodate the large group or type of activity.

    The areas marked A, B, C, D, E, and F on the campus map (Addendum A) and provided below are the six (6) outdoor expressive activity areas that may be reserved in advance. These six areas may also be used for expressive activity without a reservation; however, an individual or group with a reservation will have exclusive use and priority over other individuals or groups.

    A. Lynn Eusan Park: The park area located northwest of the Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management and southeast of the Ezekiel Cullen Building (Area A on the campus map). This is the only area of the six areas that is available for non-University affiliated individuals or groups to reserve and such individuals or groups must pay any applicable fees.

    B. Student Center Plaza: The paved area located on the western half of the space between Student Center South and Student Center North (Area B on the campus map).

    C. Student Center Satellite, Patio/Hill: The patio/hill area located at the southeast entrance to the Student Center Satellite (Area C on the campus map).

    D. Butler Plaza: The plaza bounded by the Ezekiel Cullen Building, M. D. Anderson Library, the Technology Annex, and Phillip G. Hoffman Hall (Area D on the campus map).

    E. Cougar Woods Arboretum: The grassy area located west of the Cougar Woods Dining Hall between the Dining Hall and Cullen Boulevard (Area E on the campus map).

    F. Student Center Circle: The area in front of the Student Center South (Area F on the campus map).

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  • Activists Still Fighting War of Free Speech on Campus

    June 17, 2003

    By John Elvin at Insight Magazine Shades of the 1960s. According to an Associated Press report, students and activists on college campuses around the country are taking the institutions to court over rules they claim inhibit free speech. One focal point of the controversy is the offering of designated areas on campus where students can carry on as they like. The protesters say such rules are in effect a ban on speaking their minds anywhere else at the colleges and universities. Another issue is the ban in effect or under consideration at some institutions that target “offensive speech.” The article […]

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  • Colleges Blasted Over ‘Free-Speech’ Zones

    May 29, 2003

    By Lisa Falkenberg at The Associated Press DALLAS (AP) — Time and again, Ruben Reyes asked the University of Texas at El Paso for permission to hold protests about environmental dangers, the administration and censorship — typical stuff for a campus demonstration. Each time, Reyes was turned down by officials who said the student union where the creative writing student wanted to talk was not one of the two “free-speech zones” on the campus of 17,000 students. Reyes responded by joining a growing number of students around the country who have taken university officials to court, complaining that free speech is […]

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  • ACLU Sues U. Maryland Over So-Called ‘Free-Speech’ Zones

    December 19, 2002

    By Sarah Lesher at University Wire

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  • University of Houston reacts fast to protect free speech

    November 14, 2017

    Readers often ask how a school can maintain FIRE’s highest, “green light” rating in light of incidents of censorship at that institution. Our answer has always been that our ratings system is designed only to evaluate an institution’s written policies. While a university’s policies are one useful data point to consider when evaluating a university’s free speech climate, even with speech-protective policies, censorship can and does occur. Conversely, even when FIRE rates a school as “yellow” or “red” light, sometimes they get free speech right in practice. Earlier this month, the University of Houston provided just such an example. The […]

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  • University of Houston Student Government Rescinds Suspension of VP for Facebook Post

    August 9, 2016

    Last week on The Torch, FIRE’s Will Creeley explored the legal and practical issues surrounding a decision by the University of Houston Student Government Association (SGA) to suspend its vice president, Rohini Sethi, in response to her Facebook post: “Forget #BlackLivesMatter; more like #AllLivesMatter.” On August 5, the SGA announced on Facebook that Sethi’s suspension has been lifted and the SGA’s judicial branch would review whether the bill that authorized the suspension violated the SGA’s bylaws. As Will deftly explained, Sethi’s post is unquestionably protected by the First Amendment. But this isn’t the typical FIRE case of a university punishing […]

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  • Following ‘#AllLivesMatter’ Post, University of Houston Student Leader Punished by Student Government

    August 2, 2016

    Early last month, University of Houston student body vice president Rohini Sethi posted “Forget #BlackLivesMatter; more like #AllLivesMatter” on her Facebook account following the shooting deaths of five police officers during a Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas. The controversy that has ensued continues this week, raising interesting questions about student government and the First Amendment. Sethi’s July 7 post generated outrage amongst her peers and sparked calls for her resignation from student government. Sethi deleted the post, but did not resign, explaining in a July 12 Facebook post that she hoped instead to “create the possibility of a culture […]

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  • Texas Students, FIRE’s Joe Cohn is Coming to a Campus Near You

    October 6, 2014

    Yeehaw! Joe Cohn, FIRE’s Legislative and Policy Director, will be traveling across the Lone Star State for a rootin’ tootin’ Texan campus tour. Students and faculty at or near the University of Houston, University of Texas at San Antonio, University of Texas at Austin, Texas State University at San Marcos, and Texas A&M are invited to attend Joe’s presentation and learn about their rights to freedom of speech and due process on campus. University of Houston When: Monday, October 6, 6:30 p.m. Where: Moody Towers Lobby   University of Texas at San Antonio When: Tuesday, October 7,  6:00 p.m. Where: […]

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  • Zoning Out Free Speech at Joliet Junior College

    January 4, 2007

    Last week, the Daily Southtown (Ill.) published an editorial criticizing the trustees of Joliet Junior College for adopting a new free speech zone policy. Although the new policy seems to be improved because it moves these zones closer to where students actually gather, the editorial board rightly questions why the policy wasn’t completely abolished. The editorial correctly notes that “designating a ‘zone’ and setting up rules for how to use it doesn’t encourage free speech, it limits and discourages it.” Free speech zones are nothing more then a ruse used by college administrators to suppress the free exchange of ideas. […]

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  • William Paterson University’s Disgrace

    August 10, 2005

    Fully understanding that geographical distance is no reason not to weigh in on affronts to the most crucial liberties, the editorial board of The Daily Cougar, the University of Houston’s student newspaper, has written a superb piece on FIRE’s case at William Paterson University. After summarizing the facts of the case, the editorial board correctly points out: As a student and employee, it stands to reason that Daniel should have the right to express his views to the faculty and staff of the publicly funded institution, especially considering he didn’t even begin the exchange. His message was in no way […]

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