University of Nebraska – Lincoln

Location: Lincoln, Nebraska
Type: Public
Federal Circuit: 8th Circuit

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Speech Code Rating

University of Nebraska – Lincoln 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.

Yellow Light Policies
  • Student Code of Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures: Appendix A- Response to Allegations of Student Sexual Misconduct

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: April 26, 2018

    “Sexual harassment” is unwelcome conduct or behavior of a sexual nature. Sexual harassment can include unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal, nonverbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature. Conduct that is sufficiently serious to limit or deny student’s ability to participate in or benefit from the University’s educational program creates a hostile environment, and is prohibited.

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  • Institutional Equity and Compliance: About Title IX- Sexual Harassment

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: April 26, 2018

    Sexual harassment is any unwelcome conduct or behavior of a sexual nature which creates a hostile environment. Sexual harassment can include unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal (i.e. jokes, innuendos, postings on social media), nonverbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature. Sexual harassment includes, but is not limited to: (1) an exposure of an actor’s genitals done with the intent to affront or alarm any person, and (2) viewing a person in state of undress without his or her consent or knowledge.

    Harassing conduct may include, but is not limited to the following examples:

    • Graphic and written statements, which may include use of cell phones or the internet;
    • Making sexual comments, jokes or innuendos;
    • Distributing sexually explicit drawings, pictures, or written materials;
    • Calling someone sexually charged names;
    • Rating someone on sexual activity or performance; and/or
    • Circulating, showing, or creating emails or web sites of a sexual nature.

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  • Student Code of Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures: Student Code of Conduct

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: April 26, 2018

    Physical abuse, verbal abuse, threats, intimidation, harassment, coercion, and/or other conduct that threatens or unreasonably endangers the mental or physical health, safety or reputation of any person or oneself, including any such conduct achieved through means of social media or any other means of electronic communication.

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  • UNL Bias Response: Bias FAQs and Terminology

    Speech Code Category: Policies on Bias and Hate Speech
    Last updated: April 26, 2018

    What is a bias incident or hostile climate action?

    Any demeaning, derogatory, or otherwise offensive behavior directed toward an individual on the basis of sex, gender identity or expression, race/ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, ability/disability, or other group or personal characteristic may qualify as a bias incident or hostile climate action.


    Why should I report a bias incident?

    Engaging in behavior that demeans any individual or group member is contrary to the values of the university community. Bias incidents and hostile climate actions divide our community, diminish an individual’s sense of belonging and participation, and undermine the university’s goals of creating and maintaining a welcoming and inclusive community for all of its members. UNL needs your help in responding to these situations. The purpose of reporting is not to start a punitive action but to allow the university to address incidents and respond in other ways using education, speaking out, and/or other appropriate means. Any disciplinary measures will be initiated in compliance with university policies and in accordance with the law.

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  • Rights and Responsibilities as a Resident

    Speech Code Category: Policies on Tolerance, Respect, and Civility
    Last updated: April 26, 2018

    Inappropriate behavior or unlawful activities may result in immediate termination of your residence hall contract (regular cancellation fees will apply), your relocation to another hall and/or referral to the Office of the Dean of Students or the appropriate law enforcement body. Such violations include, but are not limited to the following: …

    • Abuse (physical or verbal) and/or battery of a resident or staff member …
    • Other inappropriate behavior deemed so by Housing personnel.

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  • Student Code of Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies
    Last updated: April 26, 2018

    Use of computing facilities and resources to send obscene or abusive messages.

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  • Facilities Maintenance & Operations: Use of Outdoor Spaces

    Speech Code Category: Protest and Demonstration Policies
    Last updated: April 26, 2018

    Student organizations need to obtain an Event Planning Registration form for outdoor activities through the Office for Student Involvement …

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  • Office of the University Registrar: Discrimination and Harassment

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: April 26, 2018

    Any unwanted conduct of a sexual nature, whether verbal, physical, written, or pictorial, which has the purpose or effect of creating a hostile environment for the person subjected to the conduct, or any solicitation of sexual conduct of any nature when submission to or rejection of such contact is used as the basis for either implicitly or explicitly imposing favorable or adverse terms and conditions of academic standing constitutes sexual harassment and will not be condoned or tolerated. Moreover, sexual misconduct including stalking, dating or domestic violence and sexual assault is prohibited.

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Green Light Policies
  • Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska Policy: Commitment to Free Expression; Guide for Facilities Use; and Education

    Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression
    Last updated: May 1, 2018

    The University of Nebraska honors the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and has long dedicated itself to the free exchange of ideas.


    “Freedom of speech” and “freedom of expression” refer to one’s Constitutional right to articulate and express ideas and opinions, through any means, i.e. speaking, writing, or artistic expression, without fear of government retaliation, censorship, or other sanction. The University of Nebraska is a public institution of higher education, which holds dear this right, a right that is indispensable to its ability to transmit knowledge and fundamental to the University community’s pursuit to discover, explore, interpret, and question knowledge and opinions. The University greatly values the creation and maintenance of an inclusive climate in which all members of its community are welcomed and are encouraged to participate in the free expression of ideas. Inasmuch as the search for new truths often comes forth only after bringing together differing opinions, the University aims to foster and uphold the capacity of the University community to engage in discourse and deliberation in an effective, responsible and respectful manner. This is critical to the University’s mission.

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  • Student Code of Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures: Appendix B- Policy for Responsible Use of University Computers and Information Systems

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies
    Last updated: April 26, 2018

    Misuse includes the following: … Using electronic communications to harass or threaten users in such a way as to create an atmosphere which unreasonably interferes with the education or the employment experience. Similarly, electronic communications shall not be used to harass or threaten other information recipients, in addition to University users. … Personal use of any University information system to access, download, print, store, forward, transmit or distribute obscene material. … Obscene with respect to obscene material shall mean (1) that an average person applying contemporary community standards would find the material taken as a whole predominantly appeals to the prurient interest or a shameful or morbid interest in nudity, sex, or excretion, (2) the material depicts or describes in a patently offensive way sexual conduct specifically set out in Neb. Rev. Stat. 28-807 to 28-809, as amended, and (3) the material taken as a whole lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.

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  • Four campus free speech problems solved

    June 14, 2018

    By David Moshman at The LA Times Concerns about free speech in higher education have reached the point where at least 30 state legislatures have considered, and nearly a dozen – including Arizona and Virginia – have passed, laws to protect campus speech. The concerns about campus free speech cluster around four problems: speech zones, speech codes, disinvitations and ideological biases. Read more here.

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  • State of Conflict

    April 27, 2018

    by Steve Kolowich in The Chronicle of Higher Education The first month of the fall semester had not gone as Hank M. Bounds, president of the University of Nebraska, had hoped. It was shaping up to be a tough budget year, for the school and the state, and he had hoped to press the case for how valuable the university was to the state… Read more here.

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  • Free speech group asks UNL to reinstate fired lecturer

    December 15, 2017

    By Chris Dunker at Lincoln Journal Star An organization identified by three state senators as a resource to review free speech policies and practices at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln asked university leaders to reinstate a graduate student fired from her teaching duties last month.  Read more here.

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  • Indian Group That Profited Off Drunkenness For Years Complains About Cheeky College Football Shirt

    September 14, 2015

    By Matt Lamb at The College Fix UPDATED College warned against wearing the dreamcatcher shirt to first game of the year A college administrator’s public warning not to wear an offensive T-shirt at the first football game of the season now appears to have been all bluster. The shirt depicts a popular tailgaiting spot for University of Nebraska-Lincoln games that netted its owner, a Native American community center, handsome profits for several years. The creator of the shirt fought back against the school’s warning against wearing its wares, arguing that those who are offended are hypocrites. The two versions of […]

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  • How free is ‘abusive’ speech?

    December 1, 2009

    The Nebraska Supreme Court will take up a free speech case this week involving a college student’s angry e-mails to a professor running for political office. The student, Darren Drahota, was charged with disturbing the peace and fined $250 in Lancaster County for sending e-mails in 2006 to his former political science professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, State Sen. Bill Avery of Lincoln. At the time, Avery was running for his seat in the Legislature. The Nebraska Court of Appeals upheld the conviction in June, and a UCLA law professor appealed to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is […]

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  • Game-day politicking ban put on hold

    September 4, 2004

    LINCOLN — Nebraska regents may weigh in on whether Memorial Stadium — or for that matter an entire campus — is the right place for political campaigning.Regent Randy Ferlic of Omaha criticized Friday a new University of Nebraska-Lincoln policy banning campaign activity at Cornhusker football games.”I look at this as an abridgment of the expression of free speech,” Ferlic said. Ferlic said he will initiate a discussion of the issue at next Friday’s regular Board of Regents meeting. In the face of strong reactions from the two major political parties and questions by some regents, Chancellor Harvey Perlman decided Friday […]

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  • Thought Reform 101

    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 […]

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  • Congressman’s office pressures U. of Nebraska to punish professor who liked ‘Fartenberry’ Facebook photo

    November 1, 2018

    Lincoln Journal Star reporter Nancy Hicks described what happened to a campaign sign for Nebraska Rep. Jeff Fortenberry late last month as “[p]olitical vandalism … [with] a touch of humor.” Whoever defaced the poster opted for the “sophomoric” version of dissent — adding cartoonish googly eyes to Fortenberry’s face along with a few pieces of strategically placed tape that transformed his name to “Fartenberry.” Hicks condemned the vandalism, believed to have happened sometime on or around Oct. 21, but noted that the stunt “had even Republicans on Facebook chuckling.” Not chuckling, however, were staffers in Fortenberry’s office after they somehow […]

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  • AAUP censures University of Nebraska-Lincoln for wrongfully terminating graduate instructor

    June 20, 2018

    At its annual conference this past weekend in the Washington, D.C., area, the American Association of University Professors voted to censure the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for terminating the teaching duties of graduate student Courtney Lawton following a verbal argument with an undergraduate. The AAUP’s censure comes on the heels of an AAUP investigative report faulting UNL for its handling of Lawton’s case. The UNL case goes back to August 2017, when Lawton confronted a UNL undergraduate who had set up a table in an outdoor area to recruit members for a prospective chapter of the conservative group, Turning Point USA. […]

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  • University of Nebraska Board of Regents approves ‘Commitment to Free Expression’ Statement

    January 30, 2018

    Following a politicized free speech debacle in the fall that drew much criticism, including a letter from FIRE, the University of Nebraska system has adopted a sweeping policy statement endorsing free expression. At the Board of Regents meeting last Thursday, the Regents approved a Commitment to Free Expression statement pledging the university to upholding the First Amendment and actively endorsing freedom of expression. With its adoption, the University of Nebraska joins 33 other like-minded institutions that have chosen to prioritize free speech and academic freedom by endorsing a statement modeled after the University of Chicago’s exemplary free speech statement (better […]

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  • FIRE’s response to Nebraska state senators

    December 19, 2017

    The University of Nebraska-Lincoln has been embroiled in a free speech controversy since late summer. In August, a video recording surfaced of a university employee telling student Kaitlyn Mullen her Turning Point USA recruitment table had to be moved to a campus “free speech zone” or police would be called. Now, three state senators have weighed in, further complicating the situation for free speech on that campus. For those who haven’t been following the controversy, here’s a recap of the event that piqued the legislators’ interest: After TPUSA began its tabling in an outdoor area of campus, the footage shows […]

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  • FIRE asks University of Nebraska-Lincoln to reinstate graduate student

    December 11, 2017

    This past Friday, FIRE wrote a letter to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, asking UNL to allow a graduate student, Courtney Lawton, to resume teaching duties after her teaching duties were terminated following a campus protest. Members of the UNL chapter of Turning Point USA were recruiting for their group outside of the so-called “free speech zone” and were approached by a UNL employee who threatened to call police on the group unless they moved to the free speech zone. The employee also said that students were not allowed to hand out “propaganda.” UNL officials later clarified that UNL does not […]

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  • Nebraska President Releases Pro-Speech Statement on Husker Players’ Anthem Protest

    September 28, 2016

    University of Nebraska President Hank Bounds released a statement this morning expressing strong support for free speech amid criticism of three Husker football players who knelt during the national anthem at their game on Saturday. Citing both the First Amendment and a Nebraska Board of Regents policy that promises “the right to disagree, speak freely and be heard,” Bounds said he strongly supported both the rights of the three Husker players—Michael Rose-Ivey, DaiShon Neal and Mohamed Barry—to kneel in protest and the rights of others to express support or disagreement in return: The same freedoms that protect their speech also protect our […]

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  • University of Nebraska Student Senator Faces Impeachment Over Remarks Made During Debate

    November 25, 2013

    Following comments made during a debate over the free speech ramifications of a proposed resolution, a student senator at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) is facing a hearing and potential impeachment. While opposing a resolution pledging to remove “derogatory language” from its members’ vocabulary, Association of Students of the University of Nebraska (ASUN) Senator Cameron Murphy argued that context matters and that words should not be banned wholesale simply because they are considered “offensive” or “derogatory” per se. In doing so, he quoted and discussed comedian Chris Rock’s “Niggas vs. Black People” routine and related a personal story about being called a “cracker.” Murphy concluded that “[r]estricting […]

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  • David Moshman: ‘Sexual Harassment Is Wrong Because It Is Harassment, Not Because It Is Sexual’

    May 24, 2013

    In light of the Departments of Education and Justice’s new federal "blueprint" for campus sexual harassment policies, David Moshman, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, writes for The Huffington Post today to share a story that would be funny if it weren’t true.  At the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) a psychology graduate student named Toni Blake studied and taught human sexuality. One day in 1993 Blake brought a banana to a class session on contraception and used it to illustrate the application of a condom. Warning about the danger of impregnation prior to ejaculation, she joked that […]

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  • University of Nebraska-Lincoln Student Thankful for School’s ‘Green Light’

    February 21, 2013

    In an op-ed published in today’s edition of The Daily Nebraskan, an independent student newspaper at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), graduate student Benjamin Welch writes about the importance of having a diversity of ideas on campus, even when those ideas might offend others. Welch writes: Regardless, when a truly diverse population exists, as many universities strive for, a person of a particular persuasion or belief system taking offense to an action or speech of another is an inevitable byproduct. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Knowledge and finding oneself is the cornerstone of the college experience, and a facet […]

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  • Victory for First Amendment: Nebraska Supreme Court Exonerates Student Charged with “Breach of the Peace” for Two E-mails

    September 24, 2010

    In a victory for the First Amendment, the Nebraska Supreme Court has reversed a college student’s conviction for breach of the peace for sending two anonymous e-mails to his professor. In the e-mails, University of Nebraska student Darren Drahota had criticized the professor, who was also running for the state legislature at the time, for his political views and questioned his patriotism. The professor alerted the police to the e-mails, resulting in a conviction for disturbing the peace that was upheld on appeal by the Nebraska Court of Appeals. In its decision in State v. Drahota, the Nebraska Supreme Court […]

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  • Nebraska ‘Breach of the Peace’ Case Reaches Oral Argument, Receives Local Media Attention

    December 4, 2009

    An important First Amendment case in which a University of Nebraska student was found guilty of breaching the peace for two anonymous e-mails he sent to his college professor went to oral argument this week before the Nebraska Supreme Court. As Torch readers may recall, FIRE submitted an amicus (friend-of-the-court) brief in the case, in which student Darren Drahota criticized the political views of his professor and questioned his patriotism. The case has generated a significant amount of local press coverage in the past week, including in the Lincoln Journal-Star, Omaha World-Herald, and Lexington Clipper-Herald, and on Nebraska.TV. (Nebraska also […]

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  • FIRE Files Amicus Brief in Important ‘Breach of the Peace’ Case

    November 20, 2009

    Earlier this week, FIRE filed an amicus brief with the Nebraska Supreme Court in an important First Amendment case involving political e-mails sent by a student to his university professor. FIRE wrote the brief on behalf of Darren Drahota, a University of Nebraska student who was criminally convicted of disturbing the peace based on two anonymous e-mails sent to his political science professor, current Nebraska state senator Bill Avery. You can read an article in the Lincoln Journal Star about the case here. In a decision that would pose a clear threat to First Amendment rights if allowed to stand, […]

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  • Anne Neal in ‘The New Republic’ on UNL and Bill Ayers

    December 9, 2008

    Check out Anne Neal’s article in The New Republic on the disinvitation of Bill Ayers from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln in October. Anne, the president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni and a First Amendment lawyer, writes: UNL had invited Bill Ayers, now a University of Illinois at Chicago professor, to speak at its education college’s centennial celebration. A day after the invitation was publicized and the school was bombarded with emails and phone calls, UNL chancellor Harvey Perlman revoked the invitation, citing “security concerns.” Let there be no question: Professor Ayers’ past behavior and involvement […]

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  • Questions Remain Following University of Nebraska–Lincoln President’s Letter Concerning Ayers Cancellation

    November 18, 2008

    For a few weeks now, FIRE has been monitoring the situation at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln (UNL) following the cancellation of a speech by William Ayers, a professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a founding member of the Weather Underground, a group responsible for the bombings of several public buildings—including the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol—during the 1960s and 70s. Ayers’ speech was abruptly cancelled by UNL on “safety” grounds after the publicity generated by his relationship with now President-elect Barack Obama drew attention to his activist history. Nebraska’s governor and attorney general, as well […]

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  • At University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Cancellation of Ayers’ Speech Raises Troubling Questions

    October 20, 2008

    This past Friday, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) announced the cancellation of a November speech by William Ayers, citing unspecified “safety concerns” as grounds for the move. According to UNL’s statement, the school’s “threat assessment group” had been monitoring e-mails and had received “other information” suggesting a potential threat to security. No further details have yet been provided. Ayers is currently a professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He was also a founding member of the Weather Underground, a group responsible for bombing the Pentagon, the U.S. Capitol, and other government buildings in the 1960s and […]

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  • Emmett Hogan on 2006: The More Things Change…?

    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 […]

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