University of Pittsburgh

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Website: http://www.pitt.edu
Type: Public
Federal Circuit: 3rd Circuit

Speech Code Rating

University of Pittsburgh 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.

  • Pennsylvania House of Representatives Select Committee on Student Academic Freedom

    September 19, 2005

    The Pennsylvania House of Representatives brought together a committee to examine allegations that Pennsylvania’s public universities were plagued by liberal ideology and indoctrination. David A. French, at the time president of FIRE, served as a legal adviser to the panel. FIRE released FIRE Report on the First Amendment Responsibilities of Pennsylvania State-Funded Colleges and Universities, explaining that Pennsylvania universities are bound to follow the strictures of the U.S. and Pennsylvania Constitutions, notably to respect the expressive rights of students and faculty members, to protect religious liberty on campus, and to protect freedom of conscience on campus.

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Yellow Light Policies
  • Policy 10-02-05: Computer Access and Use

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies
    Last updated: August 25, 2016

    The following are considered improper use of University owned computing equipment, networks, services, and resources:

    […]

    Using electronic media to harass or threaten other persons, or to display, design, copy, store, draw, print, or publish obscene language or graphics.

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  • The Pitt Promise: A Commitment to Civility

    Speech Code Category: Policies Restricting Freedom of Conscience
    Last updated: August 25, 2016

    The Pitt Promise: A Commitment to Civility

    The University of Pittsburgh is committed to the advancement of learning and service to society. This is best accomplished in an atmosphere of mutual respect and civility, self-restraint, concern for others, and academic integrity. By choosing to join this community, I accept the obligation to live by these common values and commit myself to the following principles:

    As a Pitt Student:

    • I will embrace the concept of a civil community which abhors violence, theft and exploitation of others;
    • I will commit myself to the pursuit of knowledge with personal integrity and academic honesty;
    • I will respect the sanctity of the learning environment and avoid disruptive and deceitful behavior toward other members of the campus community;
    • I will support a culture of diversity by respecting the rights of those who differ from myself;
    • I will contribute to the development of a caring community where compassion for others and freedom of thought and expression are valued;
    • I will honor, challenge and contribute to the scholarly heritage left by those who preceded me and work to leave this a better place for those who follow.

    By endorsing these common principles, I accept a moral obligation to behave in ways that contribute to a civil campus environment and resolve to support this behavior in others. This commitment to civility is my promise to the University of Pittsburgh and its community of scholars.

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  • Policy 06-05-01: Sexual Misconduct

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: August 25, 2016

    Sexual harassment is defined as any unwelcome verbal or non-verbal sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, other verbal, virtual or physical conduct of a sexual nature and/or conduct directed at an individual(s) because of gender or gender stereotypes or identity when:

    […]

    c. Such conduct is severe or pervasive and objectively and subjectively has the effect of:

    i. Unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work or equal access to education;

    ii. Creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive work or academic environment.

    d. Such conduct, if repeated, is reasonably likely to meet the standard set forth above.

    […]

    Acts that constitute sexual harassment take a variety of forms and may include but are not limited to the following unwelcome actions: …

    c. Spoken, written or virtual expressions of a sexual nature, including sexual communications about a person’s body, dress, appearance or sexual activities; the use of sexually degrading language, name calling, sexually suggestive jokes, or innuendoes, and sexually suggestive phone calls.

    d. Nonverbal behavior such as suggestive or insulting gestures, sounds or whistles; display of sexually suggestive objects or written materials, pictures, photographs, cartoons, text messages, videos, or DVD’s.

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  • Office of Diversity & Inclusion: Report an Incident

    Speech Code Category: Policies on Bias and Hate Speech
    Last updated: August 25, 2016

    Bias incidents are actions committed against a person or group that are motivated in whole or in part, by bias against the person’s or group’s sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, race, religion, or disability or other protected class.  Bias incidents may or may not be hate crimes.  Hate crimes are criminal offenses motivated in whole or in part, by bias against the person’s protected class.  All hate crimes are bias incidents, but not all bias incidents are hate crimes.

    We encourage you to report incidents of bias involving a member of the University of Pittsburgh community. Bias report forms will be reviewed during business hours of 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday. Reports received after business hours will generally be reviewed during the next business day. In the event of a university holiday, reports will be reviewed on the first business day back.

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Green Light Policies
  • Student Code of Conduct: Student Rights Within the University Community

    Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression
    Last updated: August 25, 2016

    With the approval of the Board of Trustees, the University affirms the following student rights and privileges:

    To engage in discussion, to make inquiries, to exchange thought and opinion, to publish and exchange findings and recommendations, to speak, write, or print freely on any subject, and to sponsor speakers of their choice, in accordance with the guarantees of our Federal and State Constitutions, subject only to the right of the University to make reasonable rules and regulations related thereto.

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  • Student Code of Conduct: Offenses Related to Persons

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: August 25, 2016

    An offense related to a person is committed when a student:

    Harasses, or attempts to harass a person through repeated, unwanted communications or by putting another person in objective and subjective fear of injury or unreasonably causing severe or pervasive distress by: purposely following another person in public places or other places; communicating in an anonymous manner; or acting in another manner with the intent to harass a person.

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  • Race and Slurs in the Classroom

    October 5, 2015

    By Colleen Flaherty at Inside Higher Ed Microaggressions: everyday offenses or digs, sometimes subtle and unintentional, directed at a person based on his or her race. It’s a divisive term which some say has helped enable the “coddling” of college students nationwide. Other still say it’s given a name to the kinds of insidious discrimination that students of color and others have faced in the college classroom for generations. Like it or not, microaggression is now part of the mainstream college climate vocabulary, as a recent, public case at Mount Holyoke College and others like it illustrate. But are such […]

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  • What Donald Trump Taught Me About Incivility

    July 19, 2016

    Do the words “Donald Trump” and “civility” belong in the same sentence? Regardless of your feelings about the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, it seems safe to say that Trump has not made the topic of civility a cornerstone of his campaign. Quite to the contrary, I’ve seen firsthand the incivility a Trump appearance can provoke—from both his supporters and his detractors. But when Trump made a campaign stop near my school, the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt), in April, an odd dichotomy presented itself: When I heard that Trump was campaigning in southwestern Pennsylvania, I decided check it out. For better […]

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  • The Pitt Promise: A Commitment to Civility over Constitutionality

    July 23, 2014

    One needs only to flip five pages into the University of Pittsburgh’s Student Code of Conduct and Judicial Procedures to find “The Pitt Promise: A Commitment to Civility” (the “Pitt Promise,” or “the Promise”)—a list of pedagogical principles and values to which students are expected to adhere. In principle, the pledge is morally sound and perhaps desirable, but, as FIRE has explained, mandating civility clauses infringes on students’ First Amendment rights. As a current student at the University of Pittsburgh, a public institution of higher education that is bound by the Constitution, it concerns me that the university has enacted a policy that so clearly infringes on its students’ rights.

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  • Introducing FIRE Summer Intern Zoe Kuenstler

    June 16, 2014

    Zoe Kuenstler is a rising senior at the University of Pittsburgh, studying the Arabic language and majoring in anthropology and economics. Zoe’s main extracurricular activities include serving on the executive board of the co-ed national honors fraternity Phi Sigma Pi as external secretary and acting as project manager for the Pittsburgh chapter of Students Consulting for Non-Profit Organizations. Zoe writes about her reasons for interning at FIRE: When I was a freshman in high school my African Asian studies teacher taught a three week long lesson on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, one week spent on the Israeli side, one week spent on the […]

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  • Universities Must Not Intrude Upon Freedom of Conscience in ‘Values’ Statements

    January 16, 2014

    This winter, FIRE is running a series of blog posts about what makes a “green light” policy. So far, we have examined how universities can craft policies on harassment, civility, and computer usage that achieve their aims while still respecting students’ right to freedom of speech. Today we are going to talk about policies that infringe on students’ right to freedom of conscience, and about how universities can share their values with students without crossing the line into mandating agreement with those values. Just as the First Amendment protects freedom of speech, it also protects freedom of conscience—the right to keep our innermost thoughts free from governmental […]

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  • The Problem with Mandating Civility

    October 11, 2012

    FIRE is often referred to as a “watchdog” organization, and that is indeed an important part of what we do. But those who follow our work know that we also love to reward schools for upholding students’ free speech rights. That is why when a university earns a “green light” rating—a distinction currently awarded to just 15 out of the hundreds of schools we survey—FIRE does as much as possible to ensure that good news receives the maximum publicity. For example, we publish an annual list of the best colleges for free speech on The Huffington Post. In the last […]

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  • Fraternities Must Stand Up to Schools’ Squelching Free Speech

    October 11, 2004

    While there is no shortage of free-speech battles on college campuses, fraternities have the dubious honor of being at the center of many of the least-sympathetic controversies. From Halloween parties where brothers show up dressed as Ku Klux Klan members to fraternity newsletters that graphically relate a brother’s sexual exploits with named co-eds, fraternities sometimes express themselves in ways that are not exactly likely to win the battle for hearts and minds. However, although fraternities later may regret the actions of some of their brothers, they must not allow their rights to be stripped away by overzealous or opportunistic administrators. […]

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  • Practical Advice for Fraternities Caught in the Battle for Free Speech on Campus

    September 16, 2004

    I. Introduction While there is no shortage of free speech battles on college campuses, fraternities have the dubious honor of being at the center of many of the least sympathetic controversies. From Halloween parties where brothers show up dressed as Ku Klux Klan members to fraternity newsletters that graphically relate a brother’s sexual exploits with named co-eds, fraternities sometimes express themselves in ways that are not exactly likely to win the battle for hearts and minds. However, although fraternities may later regret the actions of some of their brothers, they must not allow their rights to be stripped away by […]

    » Read More