University of Nevada, Reno

Location: Reno, Nevada
Type: Public
Federal Circuit: 9th Circuit

Speech Code Rating

University of Nevada, Reno 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 Nevada at Reno: Unconstitutional Free Speech Zone Policy

    March 21, 2006

    At the University of Nevada at Reno, the university’s policy designated only four small or remote areas on UNR’s campus as “‘public forum’ areas,” and explicitly deemed the rest of the campus a non-public forum. Student activists, working with FIRE and the ACLU of Nevada, protested this unconstitutional policy and proposed a new policy that would open the public university campus to free speech. The students worked closely with UNR administrators, and were able to introduce a policy that designates the entire campus-save the interior of university buildings-as an “open public forum area.”

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Yellow Light Policies
  • Student Code of Conduct: Student Conduct Regulations and Policies

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: September 30, 2015

    The following conduct is prohibited: …

    5.   Physical abuse, verbal abuse, threats, intimidation, coercion, and/or conduct that threatens or endangers the health or safety of any person.   

    26. Acts of unwelcome verbal or physical conduct that is sexual in nature.  


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  • Residence Life Student Handbook: Disorderly Conduct/Unacceptable Behavior

    Speech Code Category: Policies on Tolerance, Respect, and Civility
    Last updated: September 30, 2015

    Any behavior or action, physical or verbal, in which the mode of expression is lewd, obscene, indecent and plainly offensive irrespective of its content or viewpoint. Verbal abuse, intimidation, coercion or bullying which is sufficiently severe, persistent pervasive so as to interfere with or limit a student’s ability to participate or benefit from the educational services, activities, activities or opportunities offered by the institution, including, but not limited to, that which constitutes discrimination or harassment relating to race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, disability, or any other protected class.

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  • University General Course Catalog: University Values and the Exchange of Ideas

    Speech Code Category: Policies on Tolerance, Respect, and Civility
    Last updated: September 30, 2015

    While prohibition of certain forms of speech can have a chilling effect on the free and open exchange of ideas, a policy of civility and tolerance can protect an environment which is free of intimidation to promote open debate.

    Personal verbal harassment of one individual by another is uncivil behavior, which can taint or pollute the learning climate and discourage open expression of ideas on legitimate academic subjects.

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  • Equal Opportunity and Title IX: Policy and Procedure Regarding Sexual Harassment

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: September 30, 2015

    No employee or student, either in the workplace or in the academic environment, should be subject to unwelcome verbal or physical conduct that is sexual in nature. Sexual harassment does not refer to occasional compliments of a socially acceptable nature. It refers to behavior of a sexual nature that is not welcome, that is personally offensive, and that interferes with performance.

    It is expected that students, faculty and staff will treat one another with respect.

    Under this policy, unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other visual, verbal or physical conduct of a sexual or gender bias nature, constitute sexual harassment when: … The conduct has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual’s academic or work performance, or of creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment in which to work or learn.

    Examples of unwelcome conduct of a sexual or gender related nature that may constitute sexual harassment may, but do not necessarily, include, and are not limited to: …

    • Sexually explicit or gender related statements, comments, questions, jokes, innuendoes, anecdotes, or gestures; …
    • Use of electronic mail or computer dissemination of sexually oriented, sex-based communications; …
    • Displaying sexually suggestive objects, pictures, magazines, cartoons, or screen savers;
    • Inquiries, remarks, or discussions about an individual’s sexual experiences or activities and other written or oral references to sexual conduct.

    Even one incident, if it is sufficiently serious, may constitute sexual harassment. One incident, however, does not usually constitute sexual harassment.


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Green Light Policies
  • Administrative Manual: Public Forum

    Speech Code Category: Protest and Demonstration Policies
    Last updated: September 30, 2015

    his University has always created an environment for raising challenging questions and the discussion of significant issues. There is perhaps none more significant that the challenge and issue of free speech. A function of free speech is to invite dispute which can result in unrest, anger, and dissatisfaction. It is in this light that the university has traditionally understood the First Amendment’s application to our campus. Of all social institutions, the university should be the most friendly toward and protective of the right of free expression.

    For over one hundred years the University of Nevada, Reno has followed the traditions of college campuses in this country by designating public forum areas on campus. We have interpreted law and policy in a broad and flexible manner so as to allow all views to be expressed while continuing to carry on the mission of learning, research, and service. The public forum policy now reflects the long time practices of this University. It was, in fact, developed in full consultation with student, faculty and staff whose ideas are reflected in this document. The ability to craft a policy that is open and inclusive while taking into consideration such a diverse set of views, is a testament to the value of what is taught, learned and practiced at the University of Nevada, Reno.

    Public expression in the form of freedom of speech and advocacy, including video recording of matters of public interest, is a fundamental right and an essential element in the marketplace of ideas of higher education. In the spirit of open discussion and freedom of expression, any individual or group may use campus grounds to exercise this constitutionally protected right. This policy applies to outside public areas such as sidewalks, lawns, and plazas. The university is obligated to create an environment where free speech and higher learning will enhance its mission of teaching, research and service.

    While it is the university’s intention to assure maximum use of its grounds for the purpose of free expression, reservations are strongly encouraged in order to ensure that a location is available for outdoor assembly at a specific date and time.

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  • University General Course Catalog: University Values and the Exchange of Ideas

    Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression
    Last updated: September 30, 2015

    The modern land grant university fosters the acquisition of knowledge and the distribution of newly discovered information. It enlivens curiosity, cultivates critical judgement and encourages the contribution of its informed students to the development of American society. The University of Nevada, Reno is committed to these land grant goals and to the maintenance of an academic environment which advances the free exchange of ideas.

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  • EDITORIAL: UNLV, UNR Must Improve Speech Codes

    December 26, 2014

    By Las Vegas Review-Journal at Las Vegas Review-Journal Colleges and universities are supposed to be marketplaces of ideas, where students from a diverse array of political, economic, ethnic, social and religious backgrounds can heartily debate the merits of what they believe, while learning more about what others believe, and why they believe it. But in the age of the precious flower, where students — and alarmingly, many professors and administrators — believe they have a right to never be offended, the marketplace’s shelves offer fewer and fewer ideas. Nevada’s two public universities are no exception. The Foundation for Individual Rights […]

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  • FIRE Applauds University of Nevada-Reno’s Dropping of ‘Speech Zones’

    July 5, 2006

    by Jim Brown Agape Press The University of Nevada at Reno (UNR) has eliminated so-called “speech zones” that limited student expression on campus. The university’s previous policy had designated only four small or remote areas on its grounds as “public forum” spaces while explicitly deeming the rest of the campus a non-public forum. The new policy adopted by the university, however, allows students to use the entire campus — except for the interior of buildings — to demonstrate, protest, or pass out flyers and newspapers. Student activists working with the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada and the Foundation for […]

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  • Say what?

    April 30, 2006

    Chicago Sun-Times The case for zero tolerance of modern school administrators (cont’d): The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education at notes that the University of Nevada at Reno Public Forum Policy allows students to offer “public expression in the form of freedom of speech and advocacy” as a “fundamental right” as long as they do it in one of four specified areas at times designated in Section 5303 Operation, Use and Maintenance of University Facilities and are in physical possession of a signed approval. The students are not to speak toward anyone who might not want to hear their […]

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  • ‘Las Vegas Review-Journal’ Urges Nevada Schools to Repeal Speech Codes

    January 27, 2014

    If the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) and the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) don’t get it, at least the Las Vegas Review-Journal does: UNLV and UNR, as public institutions, cannot maintain their broad and vague prohibitions on “offensive” or “disrespect[ful]” speech. The Review-Journal spoke with FIRE’s Samantha Harris for an editorial published yesterday explaining how the Nevada schools earned their “red light” ratings in our Spotlight database and why this should concern Nevada students. “Students across the country have been disciplined and expelled for exercising their constitutional rights,” the editorial says. “Make no mistake, cracking down on ideas is tyrannical.” After all, colleges and universities especially are supposed […]

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  • This Month in FIRE History: Speech Code Falls at Citrus College

    June 19, 2012

    Last week, United States District Judge Timothy S. Black held that the University of Cincinnati’s (UC’s) “free speech zone” policy “violates the First Amendment and cannot stand.” This victory came after FIRE helped coordinate a federal lawsuit in cooperation with Ohio’s 1851 Center for Constitutional Law on behalf of UC’s chapter of Young Americans for Liberty (YAL), a campus group that had its First Amendment rights suppressed while attempting to gather signatures for a statewide petition. This was not FIRE’s first such victory, however. Almost nine years ago to the day, FIRE announced the first victory of our Speech Code […]

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  • Free Speech Zones, Past and Present

    July 10, 2007

    In yesterday’s Campus Alert, FIRE’s weekly column in the New York Post, we discussed the disturbing prevalence of free speech zones at America’s public universities. Providing readers with a representative sample of schools that either currently maintain free speech zones or have done so in the past, we wrote: Onerous speech zones have been reported at Clemson University in South Carolina, Western Illinois University, Florida State University, University of Nebraska at Omaha, University of North Carolina-Greensboro, University of Oregon, California State University at Chico, West Virginia University, University of Nevada at Reno, Citrus College in California and the University of […]

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  • ‘Speech Code of the Month’ in ‘The FIRE Quarterly’

    May 25, 2007

    As Torch readers know, each month, FIRE features a college or university with a particularly egregious speech code as its Speech Code of the Month. We use Speech Code of the Month to educate the public about the ever-present problem of speech codes on campus, but the feature also helps put public pressure on these schools to encourage revisions of these repressive policies. An article in our new issue of The FIRE Quarterly discusses the changes in policies FIRE has witnessed in four institutions that have been named Speech Code of the Month in the past. Since June 2005, Albertson […]

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  • New Speech Code of the Month Website Feature

    April 13, 2007

    FIRE’s Speech Code of the Month program has been an important vehicle for change. Since June 2005, five universities—Albertson College of Idaho, the University of Nevada at Reno, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, Jacksonville State University, and the University of Mississippi—have changed their policies after being named Speech Code of the Month. In addition, the president of Western Michigan University has stated that his institution will revise a policy that was named FIRE’s Speech Code of the Month for March 2007. Thanks to a new feature, visitors to FIRE’s website can now see our Speech Codes of the Month together […]

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  • Students Have the Power to Effect Change

    June 29, 2006

    If FIRE’s Individual Rights Education Program (IREP) had a motto, I think it would be “helping students help themselves.” The mission of IREP is to educate members of the university community about their rights, so that they can successfully stand up for those rights on campus. In recent months, several students have successfully overturned speech codes on their campuses with help from IREP.   Earlier this year, student activists at Appalachian State University successfully challenged their university’s unconstitutional speech code after reading a report by FIRE and the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy about the state of […]

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  • Victory for Freedom of Speech: University of Nevada at Reno Abolishes ‘Free Speech Zones’

    June 28, 2006

    RENO, Nev., June 28, 2006—Students at the University of Nevada at Reno (UNR) are freer today, thanks to a new policy that designates the entire campus—save the interior of university buildings—as an “open public forum area.” “We are thrilled that UNR has taken such decisive action to protect its students’ free speech rights,” stated Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). “This is truly a victory for liberty, and we commend the students and administrators who made this happen.” As FIRE reported in April, the university’s previous policy designated only four small or remote areas […]

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  • NKU Update: Mediation for Jacobsen

    May 25, 2006

    Remember Sally Jacobsen? As previously flagged by FIRE, Jacobsen is the recently retired Northern Kentucky University professor facing theft and criminal mischief charges for allegedly dismantling a campus anti-abortion display. Yesterday, as reported in the Cincinnati Post, a judge offered Jacobsen the opportunity to have her charges dismissed if she completes mediation with representatives from NKU, its student government, and the school’s Right to Life chapter. Jacobsen’s comments to the Post speak volumes to how she got herself into so much trouble. But her comments also demonstrate a faulty and dangerous mindset pervading all too many students, faculty, and administrators on university campuses. […]

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  • Free Speech Under Quarantine at University of Nevada, Reno

    April 26, 2006

    RENO, Nev., April 26, 2006—The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is calling for the repeal of an unlawful and immoral “free speech zone” policy at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR). This policy quarantines free speech at UNR to four zones covering only a small percentage of the campus and places onerous bureaucratic restrictions on speech even within these zones. “It is simply unacceptable for a public university to transform the vast majority of its campus into a censorship area,” declared FIRE President Greg Lukianoff. “UNR’s current policy is unconstitutional and must be repealed.” UNR’s policy restricts the […]

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  • At Least the Students Get It

    February 24, 2006

    The University of Nevada at Reno (UNR) can claim the shameful distinction of having the Speech Code of the Month for August of last year. Accordingly, it is also a “red light” school on FIRE’s Spotlight, which points out the numerous restrictions the university places upon its students, many of them having to do with “offensive” conduct and speech clearly protected under the First Amendment—unless you are a student at UNR. Yet some of UNR’s other policies are also extraordinarily prohibitive, if not downright odd. If a student wants to post a flyer, it must be on a designated “Public View Bulletin […]

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  • Speech Codes of the Year: 2005

    December 29, 2005

    An outrageous number of colleges and universities severely restrict their students’ expressive rights—so many that researching and analyzing these restrictions is my full-time job. As 2005 draws to a close, I would like to highlight just a few of the particularly outrageous (but, sadly, quite common) restrictions that I found in the course of my research this year. These institutions should be ashamed of themselves. Stevens Institute of Technology provides students with a laundry list of behaviors that constitute sexual harassment, including “sexist jokes,” “comments regarding a person’s attire,” “displaying or discussing materials pertaining to males or females in a […]

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  • Speech Code of the Month: University of Nevada at Reno

    August 24, 2005

    FIRE announces the Speech Code of the Month for September 2005: the University of Nevada at Reno. The University of Nevada at Reno is a public institution, legally bound to uphold the constitutional rights of its students. Yet the university maintains a blatantly unconstitutional speech code for its residence halls, prohibiting, among other things, “offensive language.” The Residence Hall Handbook at the University of Nevada at Reno prohibits the following behaviors: “Lack of civility, any behavior or action, physical or verbal, that is meant to devalue, demean, or incite an individual or group, directly or implied, is prohibited.” “Verbal abuse, […]

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