University of Northern Iowa

Location: Cedar Falls, Iowa
Website: http://www.uni.edu
Type: Public
Federal Circuit: 8th Circuit

Speech Code Rating

University of Northern Iowa 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
  • Policies and Procedures: 13.02 Discrimination, Harassment, and Sexual Misconduct Policy

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: June 14, 2016

    This policy prohibits any form of harassment on the basis of actual or perceived membership in a protected class, by any member or group of the campus community, which unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work or academic environment.

    This environment may be created by verbal, written, graphic, threatening and/or physical conduct that is sufficiently severe, persistent, or pervasive so as to interfere with, limit, or deny the ability of an individual to participate in or benefit from educational programs or activities or employment access, benefits, or opportunities. Merely offensive conduct and/or harassment of a generic nature not on the basis of membership in a protected class may not result in a violation of this policy but may be addressed through education and/or other resolution methods.

    This policy prohibits any form of sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is unwelcome sexual- or gender-based verbal, written, online, and/or physical conduct. …

    Sexual harassment creates a hostile environment and may be disciplined when it is sufficiently severe, pervasive, persistent, or objectively offensive that it:

    • has the effect of unreasonably interfering with, denying, or limiting employment opportunities or the ability to participate in or benefit from the University’s educational, social, and/or residential program, or
    • is based on power differentials (quid pro quo), the creation of a hostile environment, or retaliation.

    Some examples of possible sexual harassment include:

    • A professor insists that a student have sex with the professor in exchange for a good grade. This is harassment regardless of whether the student complies with the request.
    • A student repeatedly sends sexually oriented jokes on an e-mail list the student created, even when asked to stop, causing one recipient to avoid the sender on campus and in the residence hall in which they both live.
    • Two supervisors frequently rate several employees’ bodies and sex appeal, commenting suggestively about their clothing and appearance.

    » Read More

  • Policies and Procedures: 9.54 Use of Computer Resources

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies
    Last updated: June 14, 2016

    The following are a sample, but not exhaustive list of behaviors with respect to the electronic environment which are expressly prohibited.

    Sending anonymous, deceptive, fraudulent, or unwelcome electronic communications, such as chain letters.

    » Read More

  • Policies and Procedures: 3.02 Student Conduct Code

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies
    Last updated: June 14, 2016

    Harassment via Technology: Use of electronic or other technology, without a valid purpose, to intentionally intimidate, embarrass, ridicule, or humiliate another person.

    » Read More

  • Bias Response Team

    Speech Code Category: Policies on Bias and Hate Speech
    Last updated: June 14, 2016

    The University will not seek to discipline or prosecute individuals for expression of views in a manner that is protected by their rights under the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, but may challenge protected speech that conflicts with institutional values by speaking out against it, by providing educational opportunities, by supporting those negatively affected by such speech, or by other legal means.

    A bias-related incident is any word or action directed toward an individual or group based upon actual or perceived identity characteristics or background of a group or person that is harmful or hurtful.  Some bias-related incidents may be contrary to law or policy, while some may be speech protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.

    » Read More

  • Policies and Procedures: 13.02 Discrimination, Harassment, and Sexual Misconduct Policy

    Speech Code Category: Bullying Policies
    Last updated: June 14, 2016

    This policy prohibits other offenses of a discriminatory, harassing, and/or retaliatory nature not included in the previous sections as follows: … Bullying, defined under this policy as repeated and/or severe aggressive behavior likely to intimidate or intentionally hurt, control or diminish another person, physically or mentally on the basis of actual or perceived membership in a protected class.

    » Read More

  • Policies and Procedures: 3.02 Student Conduct Code

    Speech Code Category: Posting and Distribution Policies
    Last updated: June 14, 2016

    The following specifically pertain to students occupying or visiting property operated by the Department of Residence (DOR). Violations of any of the following may be subject to the student conduct process. Exceptions to the following are allowed for Catering and Dining operations.

    Offensive Writings: Writing offensive and/or inappropriate language or symbols on dry erase boards, bulletin boards, posted signs, door decorations, skywalks, or other public areas are not permitted.

    » Read More


Green Light Policies
  • Policies and Procedures: 13.10 Freedom of Expression

    Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression
    Last updated: June 14, 2016

    Providing a forum for the free expression of ideas is a cherished and time-honored feature of university life.

    Freedom of expression is legally reinforced and mandated by: 1) the First Amendment to the United States Constitution: “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…” and 2) Article I, Bill of Rights, Section 7, of the Iowa Constitution: “Every person may speak, write, and publish his sentiments on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of that right. No law shall be passed to restrain or abridge the liberty of speech, or the press.”

    As a university of the state of Iowa, the University of Northern Iowa bears a collective responsibility to ensure that freedom of expression is protected. The university’s mission statement declares that “[t]he University is committed to providing an optimum level of learning opportunities for the intellectual development of its students, faculty, staff.” In carrying out these responsibilities, allowances may be made for considerations of reasonable time, place and manner of expression that are content-neutral. To this end, it is the responsibility of every university employee and student to abide by the legal requirements ensuring freedom of expression.

    » Read More

  • Policies and Procedures: 3.02 Student Conduct Code

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: June 14, 2016

    Harassment is a knowing and willful course of conduct that has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment or which intends to cause a person to suffer substantial emotional distress.

    » Read More


  • Search for Civil Speech on College Campuses Collides with First Amendment

    May 1, 2016

    By Nicholas Fisher, Clinton Olsasky, Krista Johnson and Lyle Muller at Iowa Watch Enough bad feelings had come to a head that some 200 people felt a need to gather at the University of Northern Iowa on a November night to talk about cultural diversity… Read more here.

    » Read More
  • Report: UI, ISU and UNI on “red light” speech code list

    December 18, 2012

    A new report lists the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa among schools that earn the lowest rating regarding free speech on campus. The UI, ISU and UNI were among the schools on the “red light” list from the 2013 report on campus speech codes by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.  Grinnell College was on the “yellow light” list in the report. More than three-fifths — 62.1 percent — of the 409 schools surveyed have speech codes that “clearly fail to meet First Amendment standards,” according to the foundation. Those schools were […]

    » Read More
  • University of Northern Iowa: We Will Not Punish Protected Speech

    October 29, 2008

    FIRE recently named the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) our Speech Code of the Month for stating on its website that: A bias incident is any inappropriate word or action directed toward an individual or group based upon actual or perceived identity characteristics or background of a group or person and that is contrary to law or policy. […] The campus community takes great pride in promoting a healthy environment and will not tolerate bias or hate incidents. Shortly thereafter, an administrator from UNI contacted FIRE to let us know that the document in question was not a policy but […]

    » Read More
  • Speech Code of the Month: University of Northern Iowa

    October 2, 2008

    FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for October 2008: the University of Northern Iowa. We have written in the recent past about the explosion of overbroad “bias incident” policies on college campuses nationwide. Many schools maintain policies that define so-called “bias incidents” to include a great deal of constitutionally protected expression. But perhaps none does so as dramatically as the University of Northern Iowa (UNI), a public university, which defines a bias incident as “any inappropriate word or action directed toward an individual or group based upon actual or perceived identity characteristics or background of a group or […]

    » Read More