Vassar College

Location: Poughkeepsie, New York
Type: Private
Federal Circuit: 2nd Circuit

Speech Code Rating

Vassar College has been given the speech code rating Warning. FIRE provides a "Warning" rating to prospective students and faculty members when a private university clearly and consistently states that it holds a certain set of values above a commitment to freedom of speech. Read more here.

At present, FIRE has not been involved in any cases at this school.
Not Rated Policies
  • Student Handbook: Computer Regulations- Cyberethics, Internet Safety, and Community Standards

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies
    Last updated: February 19, 2018

    Vassar’s computer regulations set clear guidelines in accordance with college regulations to govern conduct on computers (see above). Cyberethics and Internet safety are issues that all community members must be aware of to ensure a healthy, safe, and respectful campus environment. Cyberethics codes of responsible and safe online behavior consider the effects of behaviors both on individuals and on groups in our community. Behaviors that create harmful effects include illegal activities, offensive and defaming language, hate speech, postings of private information such as phone numbers and addresses, posting private photos, and anonymous messages that target individuals or groups.

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  • Student Handbook: College Regulations- Academic Freedom and Responsibility

    Speech Code Category: Policies on Tolerance, Respect, and Civility
    Last updated: February 19, 2018

    [M]embers of the college community accept constraints, similar to those of parliamentary debate against personal attacks or courts of law against the use of inflammatory language. Under the rule of civility, individuals within the community are expected to behave reasonably, use speech responsibly, and respect the rights of others. Genuine freedom of mind is not possible in the absence of civility.

    As a private institution, Vassar is a voluntary association of persons invited to membership on the understanding that they will respect the principles by which it is governed. Because Vassar is a residential college, and because it seeks diversity in its membership, individuals have a particular obligation beyond that of society at large to exercise self-restraint, tolerance for difference, and regard for the rights and sensitivities of others.

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  • Student Handbook: Policy Against Discrimination and Harassment

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: February 19, 2018

    Discriminatory Harassment is unwelcome conduct directed toward an individual based on the individual’s actual or perceived race, color, religion or religious belief, citizenship status, sex, marital status, disability, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, military service or affiliation, genetic information, age, or other characteristic protected by law that is so severe, persistent, or pervasive that it has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s employment or educational performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, offensive, or abusive environment for that individual’s employment, education, living environment, or participation in a College activity.

    Sexual Harassment is a form of unlawful gender-based discrimination. It may involve harassment of women by men, harassment of men by women, and harassment between persons of the same sex. Sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome gender-based verbal or physical conduct that it sufficiently severe, persistent, or pervasive that it unreasonably interferes with, limits, or deprives someone of the ability to participate in or benefit from the college’s educational program or activities or employment benefits or opportunities. …

    Examples of sexual harassment may include, but are not limited to,

    1. Egregious, unwanted sexual attention or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature;
    2. Implied or overt threats of punitive action, a result of rejection of sexual advances;
    3. Conditioning a benefit on an individual’s acceding to sexual advances;
    4. Unwelcome, sexually explicit messages, statements, or materials;
    5. Attempting to coerce an unwilling person into a romantic or sexual relationship;
    6. Sexual violence;
    7. Intimate partner violence;
    8. Stalking, including cyberstalking;
    9. Gender-based bullying.

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  • Student Handbook: College Regulations- Bias Incident and Hate Crime Protocol

    Speech Code Category: Policies on Bias and Hate Speech
    Last updated: February 19, 2018

    A bias incident is characterized as a behavior or act – verbal, written, or physical – which is personally directed against or targets an individual or group based on perceived or actual characteristics such as race, color, religious belief, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national or ethnic origin, disability, veteran status, or age. Behavior reflecting bias may constitute a violation of Vassar College regulations. The kinds of incidents that may constitute a bias incident include, but are not limited to, threatening telephone calls or mail (including electronic mail), graffiti, physical assault, sexual assault or abuse, stalking, vandalism, destruction of personal property, harassment, or coercion.

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  • The Other Side of the Sexual Assault Crisis

    December 10, 2015

    By Max Kutner at Newsweek When you are the most notorious alleged college rapist in the country, it takes a lot of guts to attend your graduation ceremony. For most of Columbia University’s Class of 2015, graduation day was an exuberant celebration of four years of hard work at one of the country’s most prestigious schools. For Paul Nungesser, it was yet another reminder of how alone he was on that storied campus, and how hated he was. He and his parents had agonized over whether to attend the ceremony because his classmate Emma Sulkowicz had accused him of raping […]

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  • Looking for a College With Political Diversity? Here’s a Few Options and Ones to Avoid

    December 5, 2015

    By Ray Nothstine at The Christian Post Universities and colleges often make rapt headlines for political radicalism, but a diverse, well-rounded higher education may be more available than you think. Backlash against liberal institutions have essentially been on the rise since conservative giant William F. Buckley, Jr. published God and Man at Yale in 1951. The National Review founder and publisher lamented the worldview of his alma mater in the famous book declaring, “The academic community has in it the biggest concentration of alarmists, cranks and extremists this side of the giggle house.” Heterodox Academy, whose mission is to “increase viewpoint […]

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  • How Parents can Avoid Spending Thousands on Colleges that Host Student Storm-Troopers

    December 1, 2015

    By Thomas Sowell at New York Post Storm trooper tactics by bands of college students making ideological demands across the country, and immediate pre-emptive surrender by college administrators — such as at the University of Missouri recently — bring back memories of the 1960s for those of us old enough to remember what it was like being there and seeing firsthand how painful events unfolded. At Harvard back in 1969, students seized control of the administration building and began releasing to the media information from confidential personnel files of professors. But when university president Nathan Pusey called in the police […]

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  • The Railroading of Peter Yu

    April 5, 2015

    By KC Johnson at Minding the Campus One of the most important elements of a senator’s power comes in the tradition of recommending district court judicial nominations in the senator’s home state. And so it perhaps should come as little surprise that the Senate’s most ardent opponent of campus due process, Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York), would have recommended the author of the most aggressively anti-campus due process opinion to come from the federal courts. In a 58-page opinion, Judge Ronnie Abrams granted summary judgment to Vassar College in a case filed by Peter Yu. The Abrams decision was particularly disturbing […]

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  • Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    December 17, 2013

    By Cathy Young at Reason One evening in February 2012, Vassar College students Xialou “Peter” Yu and Mary Claire Walker, both members of the school’s rowing team, had a few drinks at a team gathering and left together as the party wound down. After a make-out session at a campus nightspot, they went to Yu’s dorm room, where, by his account, they had sex that was not only consensual but mainly initiated by Walker, who reassured her inexperienced partner that she knew what to do. At some point, Yu’s roommate walked in on them; after he was gone, Yu says, Walker […]

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  • College Men Accused of Sexual Assault Say Their Rights Violated

    December 16, 2013

    By John Lauerman at Bloomberg News Dec. 16 (Bloomberg) — Across the U.S., female students have filed federal complaints that claim campus sexual-assault investigators lack training, fail to adequately probe incidents and treat the attackers with too much leniency. Now, college men accused of sexual assault are protesting the same system. Taking a page from the women’s complaints, men are citing violations under Title IX, the anti-gender discrimination law that women have used to demand equality in sports programming and education for 40 years. Men are claiming the investigations are biased in favor of their accusers, who are most often […]

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  • Film portrays stifling of speech, but one college’s struggle reflects a nuanced reality

    June 27, 2007

    A new documentary is making the rounds that argues, with vivid examples, that the nation’s colleges are squelching freedom of expression and are no longer free marketplaces of ideas. The film carries the striking title “Indoctrinate U,” and was made by Evan Coyne Maloney, who describes himself as a libertarian and is looking for a national distributor. The film borrows the technique of ambush interviews from an ideological opposite, Michael Moore, and tells how at California Polytechnic State University, a student underwent a daylong disciplinary hearing for posting a flier publicizing a black speaker whose talk was titled, “It’s O.K. […]

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  • In Due Process Lawsuit, Court Rules in Favor of Vassar College

    April 1, 2015

    Yesterday, in a closely watched lawsuit brought by a student expelled from Vassar College for sexual assault, a federal district court issued a ruling sharply in favor of the private liberal arts college. Granting Vassar College’s motion for summary judgment in Yu v. Vassar College, federal judge Ronnie Abrams of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York rejected student Xiaolu “Peter” Yu’s claims that Vassar’s decision-making violated his rights under Title IX, was procedurally flawed, and failed to comply with the college’s written policies. Taking note of the current national discussion about how best to […]

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  • Boring Campuses: Not Just the Fault of Helicopter Parents

    April 16, 2014

    In a new article, Slate’s Rebecca Schuman laments the phenomenon of colleges and universities becoming toned-down, less playful, even boring. Schuman argues that this is in part due to parents over-planning their kids’ lives, leaving them incapable of finding creative ways to have fun when they’re older and on their own: A recent trip back to my beloved alma mater, Vassar—combined with my interactions with students where I teach and some disappointing sleuthing—has made it apparent that much of the unstructured free play at college seems to have disappeared in favor of pre-professional anxiety, coupled with the nihilistic, homogeneous partying […]

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  • Found Guilty of ‘Improper Sexual Behavior,’ Expelled Vassar Student Files Suit

    July 30, 2013

    Former Vassar College student Xiaolu Yu has filed a lawsuit against the college, claiming that sexual discrimination and a lack of due process led to the school finding him guilty of “improper sexual behavior” a year after he had consensual sex with another student. The allegations might sound familiar to Torchreaders; former St. Joseph’s University student Brian Harris recently brought a Title IX claim against his university on similar grounds. The Poughkeepsie Journal reports on Yu’s case: Yu, a Chinese citizen, said that after the night of consensual sex, he and the woman exchanged texts, a police report wasn’t filed, […]

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  • Controversy over New Independent Newspaper at Vassar Spikes Student Interest in Free Speech

    December 10, 2010

    At Vassar College recently, there was some controversy surrounding the Vassar Student Association Council’s (VSA’s) approval of the publication of The Vassar Chronicle, a new political journal created by the Moderate, Independent and Conservative Alliance (MICA). Vassar’s student-run publication, The Miscellany News, has been covering both sides of the discussion surrounding the Chronicle‘s trial run.  In opposition, Boyd Gardner strangely argued that the decision to approve the Chronicle was rash and miscalculated: My opposition, and the opposition of several of my colleagues, was grounded in the fact that the decision to create a new publication, especially one that will address such emotional […]

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  • More Commentary on ‘New York Times’ Piece

    June 29, 2007

    On Wednesday, Greg expressed his disappointment with Joseph Berger’s column in The New York Times, which discussed Evan Maloney’s film “Indoctrinate U” and painted a picture of the status of free speech on campus using a much sunnier color palette than we would have chosen. Apparently, we weren’t the only ones bothered by Berger’s conclusions.   Berger’s article singled out a 2005 incident at Vassar College in which a student publication was denied funding for one year and prevented from publishing after printing an opinion piece criticizing what the anonymous author perceived as tension on campus based on race and […]

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  • ‘New York Times’ disappoints

    June 29, 2007

    I am, to say the least, disappointed by Joseph Berger’s column in The New York Times today concerning Evan Maloney’s film “Indoctrinate U” and free speech on campus in general. I have been corresponding with Joe for several weeks, and even had lunch with him this past Friday. I had hoped that after such extensive interaction, I had demonstrated to him that a serious and ongoing free speech problem exists on campus. I also hoped that I had convinced him that taking student fee funding away from a student newspaper for printing a controversial article is censorship. Unfortunately, I was […]

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  • ‘New York Times’ Disappoints

    June 27, 2007

    I am, to say the least, disappointed by Joseph Berger’s column in The New York Times today concerning Evan Maloney’s film “Indoctrinate U” and free speech on campus in general. I have been corresponding with Joe for several weeks, and even had lunch with him this past Friday. I had hoped that after such extensive interaction, I had demonstrated to him that a serious and ongoing free speech problem exists on campus. I also hoped that I had convinced him that taking student fee funding away from a student newspaper for printing a controversial article is censorship. Unfortunately, I was […]

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  • Politics vs. Porn

    September 30, 2005

    Earlier this week, my FIRE colleague Robert Shibley called Torch readers’ attention to a free speech controversy at Vassar College. Students there were outraged by the latest issue of The Imperialist, the publication of Vassar’s Moderate, Independent, and Conservative Alliance (MICA), because it criticized self-segregation on the part of minority students. There were many calls for The Imperialist and MICA to be defunded and/or derecognized by the student government. Today, I spoke with Graydon Gordian, the editor of The Imperialist, and Matt Ambrose, the president of MICA. I am pleased to report that Vassar’s student government has apparently declined to […]

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  • More Bad News for Student Press Freedom

    September 27, 2005

    Evidence has begun to roll in showing that the freedom of the student press is under assault as never before. It’s certainly bad enough that our own federal court system is attacking the free campus press through the Seventh Circuit’s en banc decision in Hosty v. Carter (now being appealed to the Supreme Court)—but hold on, it gets worse. In just the last few days, FIRE has become aware of not one, not two, but three different assaults on campus press freedom that have taken place since the beginning of the school year—and it’s only the end of September. Our […]

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