University of Mary Washington

Location: Fredericksburg, Virginia
Type: Public
Federal Circuit: 4th Circuit

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Speech Code Rating

University of Mary Washington 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
  • Bias Offense and Incident Reporting Policy

    Speech Code Category: Policies on Bias and Hate Speech
    Last updated: November 29, 2017

    Bias Offense: A bias offense is any act that is based on actual or perceived race, color, religion, disability, national origin, political affiliation, marital status, sexual orientation, gender, veteran status, or age that creates an intimidating and/or hostile educational , living, or working environment by unreasonably and substantially interfering with an individual’s or group’s safety, security, work, or academic performance. Acts include language and/or behaviors. An intimidating and/or hostile environment is one that reasonably results from severe or pervasive bias related conduct.

    What is meant by bias incident?

    Bias incidents involve any behavior that a person finds harmful or hurtful and reasonably believes is directed at him or her or others simply because of one’s race, color, religion, disability, national origin, political affiliation, marital status, sexual orientation, gender, veteran status, or age.

    What is the difference between a bias incident and a bias offense under this policy?

    Bias incident is the broadest category of bias-related behavior that includes bias offenses, as defined earlier in this policy, hate crimes, and lesser incidents that are motivated by bias (see definition of hate crime below). A bias incident may involve protected speech.

    This definition is used for reporting and statistical purposes only. It carries no independent sanctioning weight or authority.

    » Read More

  • Office of Student Conduct and Responsibility: Disorderly or Obscene Conduct

    Speech Code Category: Policies on Tolerance, Respect, and Civility
    Last updated: November 29, 2017

    No student shall be involved in disorderly or obscene conduct. Such conduct includes, but is not limited to: fighting, creating a disturbance, obscene language, verbal or physical harassment, making excessive noise. Disorderly or obscene conduct on campus, at any UMW-sponsored event, or while operating or traveling in any Mary Washington or state-owned vehicle, should be reported to the Office of Student Conduct and Responsibility (OSCAR), or, in urgent situations, to University Police.

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Green Light Policies
  • Student Handbook: Code of Conduct

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: November 29, 2017

    Harassment, threats, or intimidation directed toward any individual or group of individuals.

    » Read More

  • Student Handbook: Statement of Rights and Responsibilities

    Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression
    Last updated: November 29, 2017

    All members share the obligation to respect the right to freedom of inquiry, of religion, of speech, of press, of peaceful assemblage, of association, and of petition to the institution for a redress of grievances.

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  • Policy on Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment and Other Forms of Interpersonal Violence

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: November 29, 2017

    Sexual or gender-based harassment is defined as gender‐based verbal or physical conduct that unreasonably interferes with or deprives someone of educational access, benefits, or opportunities.

    Hostile Environment harassment includes any situation in which there is harassing conduct that is sufficiently severe, pervasive or persistent, and patently offensive, such that it alters the conditions of education or employment, from both a subjective (the alleged victim’s) and an objective (reasonable person’s) viewpoint.

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  • Student Handbook: Demonstration/Expressive Activity By Members of University Community

    Speech Code Category: Protest and Demonstration Policies
    Last updated: October 10, 2018

    For the purpose of implementation, expressive activity shall refer to all demonstrations, protests, marches, rallies, leaflet distribution or other activity involving the public display of expression by a group or multiple groups.

    General: All University property is intended primarily for use by students, faculty and staff in their efforts to advance the educational mission of the University. Consistent with that mission, most outdoor areas of campus represent a limited public forum for speech and other expressive activities by members of the University community. The indoor facilities on campus are typically dedicated to particular academic or administrative purposes and may be used for expressive activity only to the extent that such activity does not unreasonably interfere with the intended purpose of the facilities.

    All organizers are encouraged to provide advance notice to the University Police prior to commencement of an expressive activity in order to promote the safety and security of all individuals on campus. To be useful, advance notification must include the day, time, and location where the demonstration or other expressive activity is expected to begin as well as the full name and detailed contact information for the primary organizer and/or person responsible for the activity.

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  • Network and Computer Use Policy

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies
    Last updated: November 29, 2017

    The network provides an open forum for the expression of ideas, including viewpoints that are strange, unorthodox, and unpopular. Opinions expressed there must be presented in a manner that is free of obscenity (as defined by Code of Virginia section 18.2-372), forgery, and other illegal forms of expression, which are not acceptable uses of the University’s network and are in violation of University policy. In addition, expressions of opinion may not be represented as the views of the University of Mary Washington, and individual users are responsible and accountable for any material posted and transmitted on the network in violation of this or other University policies, or state or federal law.

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  • Jefferson Muzzles go to 50 Colleges and Universities

    April 20, 2016

    By Eugene Volokh at The Washington Post The Thomas Jefferson Center (with which I’m involved as a member of the board of trustees) has just released its yearlyJefferson Muzzles, so I thought I’d pass along the center’s explanation of who the “winners” are this year. Note that the Ccnter supports academic freedom and free speech broadly, and not just those aspects that are legally protected by the First Amendment; so you’ll see many private institutions mentioned here, even though the First Amendment as such does not restrict private entities, as well as the public institutions to which the First Amendment applies… Read […]

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  • Don’t Sacrifice Free Speech in Fight Against Discrimination, Groups Tell Dept. of Education

    April 6, 2016

    By Staff at National Coalition Against Censorship Free speech, academic freedom and education groups are urging the U.S. Department of Education to reject a call to restrict student speech by banning social media services like Yik Yak on college campuses… Read more here.

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  • Silencing Students: The 8 Most Loathsome Campus Censors of 2015

    December 29, 2015

    By Robby Soave at Every year brings new examples of ruthless college administrators trampling the free expression rights of students and faculty, and 2015 was no different. Here are eight of the most notable campus censors I wrote about this year. Honorable Mention: Eric Posner Eric Posner, a professor of law at the University of Chicago, hasn’t actually censored anyone, so he doesn’t make the list. But he certainly provides a great deal of intellectual ammunition for people working to restrict free expression rights—including and especially university administrators, as well as the police. Whether he is arguing that 18-year-olds […]

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  • Column: So UMW President’s Defense Against Federal Complaint Amounts to Retaliation?

    November 10, 2015

    By Samantha Harris at Imagine that someone publicly made damaging allegations against you that you believed to be false. Now imagine that when you tried to publicly defend yourself against those allegations, you found yourself accused of unlawful retaliation. Sound unfair? It certainly does, but that is exactly what is happening around the country in the name of preventing sex discrimination on campus. Last fall, a controversy arose at the University of Mary Washington after several members of the UMW men’s rugby club were recorded singing a bawdy song at an off-campus party. After members of the UMW student […]

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  • Feminist Groups Want Schools to be Required to Monitor Social Media

    October 26, 2015

    By Peter Fricke at Campus Reform A coalition of interest groups wants the U.S. Department of Education to require colleges to monitor social media and protect students from threatening and offensive comments. The request was made last week by 72 women’s and civil rights groups, who claimed that harassment and threats on anonymous apps like Yik Yak are an emerging Title IX issue,according to Inside Higher Ed. “Students on college campuses throughout the country have with increasing frequency used anonymous social media applications, such as Yik Yak, to target women students, students of color, and sexual minorities with harassment, threats, […]

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  • Celebrate ‘Free Speech Week’ — Speak Up, Speak Out!

    October 23, 2015

    By Gene Policinski at The Quad-City Times It’s Free Speech Week 2015 — and a major debate over free speech has just broken out. Thanks to the First Amendment, we are free to compliment, cajole, deny or decry. And if you’re looking for something immediate that calls out for more free and unfettered discussion, join this newest national debate over anonymous speech on the Web. On Wednesday, a coalition of women’s and civil rights groups announced a campaign to pressure colleges, through the U.S. Department of Education, to go on the offensive — pardon that reference — against anonymous social media […]

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  • Blame the Killer, Not the Rugby Team, for Murdering a Feminist at U. of Mary Washington

    May 27, 2015

    By Robby Soave at Reason Online On April 17, University of Mary Washington student Grace Mann was strangled to death insider her off-campus home. The authorities swiftly apprehended her alleged killer, Steven Vander Briel—an on-again off-again UMW student and one of Mann’s roommates. As it so happens, Mann was an active member of the campus’s Feminists United Club (FUC), and Vander Briel was (supposedly) a former member of the rugby team. Considerable bad blood existed between the two groups, and in the weeks leading up to Mann’s death, members of FUC had faced a torrent of verbal abuse and threats […]

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  • Sexist Chanting at Party Leads to Punishment for Students Who Weren’t Even There

    March 25, 2015

    By Robby Soave at Reason Online The University of Mary Washington permanently cancelledits student rugby team after evidence surfaced that team members had engaged in sexist chanting at an off-campus house party. All members of the team were also required to attend sexual assault training. But while UMW’s rugby team has 46 players, only 8 of them were even in attendance at the party—meaning that not only did a public university punish a few students for engaging in inappropriate (though constitutionally-protected) speech, it also punished other students who had nothing to do with said (again, constitutionally-protected!) speech. The microaggression unfolded […]

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  • College Suspends Rugby Team for Necrophilia Song

    March 24, 2015

    By Jenn Gidman at Newser (NEWSER) – The University of Mary Washington’s entire rugby team has been suspended after video surfaced of several of its members singing an obscenity-laced chant describing the sexual assault of a prostitute’s corpse. The song was recorded by a student at an off-campus party, perJezebel; the student posted the video to YouTube, where it spread among students on the small campus (Jezebel has audio and lyrics). Sanctions against Mother’s Rugby for flouting the school’s conduct code were approved at the beginning of the semester, the Free Lance-Star notes, but after the team appealed, the college […]

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  • Entire College Rugby Team Suspended Over Recorded ‘Fuck a Whore’ Chant

    March 23, 2015

    By Erin Gloria Ryan at Jezebel One chilly afternoon in late November 2014, a few dozen students at the University of Mary Washington gathered in a house about a half mile off their Fredericksburg, Virginia, campus for a party at a house rented by rugby players. For a Sunday, the mood was raucous, with students belting bar chants in celebration of a recent victory. Then, as the singing escalated in enthusiasm and obscenity, one party attendee surreptitiously took his cell phone out of his pocket and began recording. The video didn’t capture any faces; its camera remained fixed on a […]

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  • FIRE, joined by coalition of free speech advocates, files amici curiae brief in Feminist Majority Foundation v. University of Mary Washington

    January 19, 2018

    Yesterday, FIRE―joined by the Cato Institute, the National Coalition Against Censorship*, and Professor Nadine Strossen―filed an amici curiae brief in the case of Feminist Majority Foundation v. University of Mary Washington. FIRE’s brief urges the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit to uphold a district court’s ruling that the University of Mary Washington and its former president did not violate the plaintiffs’ civil rights in its handling of a series of hostile social media posts. The controversy giving rise to this case began in late 2014, when the student plaintiffs in this case—members of the UMW student group […]

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  • University of Mary Washington’s decision not to ban anonymous app Yik Yak upheld by federal court

    September 26, 2017

    A federal district court in Virginia has ruled in favor of the University of Mary Washington, dismissing a lawsuit over the university’s refusal to block access to Yik Yak, a now-defunct app that allowed users within a narrow geographic area to post and read anonymous messages. Yik Yak was often criticized for caustic or offensive exchanges, including by students at UMW, where some anonymous users posted “Yaks” containing allegedly threatening comments about women on campus. Some students, together with the Feminist Majority Foundation, brought a lawsuit against the university for refusing to block the app and for publishing a letter […]

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  • Lawsuit against U. of Mary Washington alleges defending free speech violates Title IX

    May 17, 2017

    Earlier this month, the Feminist Majority Foundation — along with its University of Mary Washington campus affiliate Feminists United and five former UMW students — filed a lawsuit against the Virginia public university and its president. They alleged that the university’s response to offensive speech by other UMW students was inadequate and perpetuated a hostile environment based on sex in violation of Title IX and the Fourteenth Amendment. Like the group’s 2015 complaint to the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) concerning the same allegations, this lawsuit demonstrates a misunderstanding of the relationship between freedom of expression and […]

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  • FIRE’s Samantha Harris: Title IX Retaliation Complaints Are Silencing Campus Speech

    November 10, 2015

    Today’s opinion section of the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star features an op-ed by Samantha Harris, FIRE’s director of policy research, describing how the abuse of Title IX retaliation complaints is hurting free speech on campus. Sam describes a federal Title IX retaliation complaint filed against the University of Mary Washington (UMW) after UMW President Richard Hurley publicly denied allegations that UMW had failed to appropriately address hostile posts on the social media application Yik Yak. Last month, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced it would be investigating the complaint. Northwestern University professor Laura Kipnis also found herself […]

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  • OCR’s Investigation of U. of Mary Washington Raises Free Speech Concerns

    October 22, 2015

    Last fall, a controversy arose at the University of Mary Washington (UMW) when several members of the UMW men’s rugby club were recorded participating in a bawdy song at an off-campus party. After members of the UMW student group Feminists United on Campus (FUC) complained about the recording, UMW dissolved the rugby club in March 2015 and ordered its members to sensitivity training. After the incident, FUC members found themselves the targets of online hostility. As Jezebel’s Erin Gloria Ryan wrote, FUC members found themselves scapegoated by their fellow students at the small university. Messaging app Yik Yak, which allows […]

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  • Greg Laments an ‘Unfortunate Renaissance in Campus Speech-Policing’ on College Campuses

    May 18, 2015

    Freedom of speech on college campuses seems to ebb and flow—periods of rampant censorship are followed by movements for truly open discourse, which in turn are followed by attempts to silence “offensive” speech. Unfortunately, as FIRE President Greg Lukianoff writes for Minding the Campus today, colleges and universities are now home to a “renaissance in campus speech-policing.” FIRE has seen too many instances of unlawful censorship in each of our 15 years of existence. But recent attempts at censorship reveal not just incorrect ideas about the scope of the First Amendment and misguided takes on free speech principles, but also […]

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  • UMW’s Punishment of Rugby Team Disregards Free Speech, Due Process

    March 26, 2015

    Another week, another public university president defying the First Amendment. Declaring that his university (unconstitutionally) prohibits “derogatory statements of any form,” University of Mary Washington (UMW) President Richard Hurley announced last week that the UMW men’s rugby club has been dissolved, and all of its players ordered to attend sensitivity training, because of a few team members’ participation in a bawdy song recorded at a November 2014 party. The song in question, the lyrics of which revolve around having sex with the body of a dead prostitute, has raised eyebrows. But in declaring this speech out of bounds and levying […]

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  • Responding to “Offensive” Speech with Constructive Speech at the University of Mary Washington

    November 12, 2007

    According to Jeff Branscome in The Free Lance-Star, University of Mary Washington freshman Rob Mariani “is facing college disciplinary action for disrupting community values and disorderly conduct after the school’s student newspaper ran a story about a racially insensitive poster found in a dorm.” Mariani had put the poster outside his dorm room door, and it or a copy of it somehow ended up in a dorm refrigerator, where it was discovered by cleaning staff, who complained. The poster, according to Branscome, “pictured an emotional black basketball player embracing his coach and read, ‘Slavery Reinstated: Catch Yourself a Strong One.’” […]

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