Virginia Commonwealth University

Location: Richmond, Virginia
Type: Public
Federal Circuit: 4th Circuit

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Speech Code Rating

Virginia Commonwealth University 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
  • Policy Library: Sexual Misconduct/Violence and Sex/Gender Discrimination

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: May 3, 2018

    Sexual harassment is also a form of discrimination and is unwelcome, sexual, sex or gender‐ based, verbal or physical conduct, including unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other conduct of a sexual nature. Purpose or intent is not a required element of sexual harassment.

    A hostile environment is created when sexual harassment is sufficiently severe, persistent or pervasive and objectively offensive that it unreasonably interferes with, denies or limits an individual’s ability to participate in or benefit from the university’s educational, employment, social or residential programs.

    » Read More

Green Light Policies
  • Policy Library: Student Code of Conduct

    Speech Code Category: Policies on Tolerance, Respect, and Civility
    Last updated: May 25, 2018

    Students are encouraged to engage in responsible social conduct that reflects credit upon the University community and to model good citizenship in any community.

    » Read More

  • Policy Library: Student Code of Conduct

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies
    Last updated: May 25, 2018

    Violations include, but are not limited to, unauthorized entry, unauthorized transfer of a file, use of another individual’s identification and/or password, use of computing facilities and resources to interfere with the work of another University member, use of computing facilities and resources to send obscene messages as legally defined, use of computing facilities and resources to interfere with the normal operation of the University computing system, use of computing facilities and resources in violation of copyright laws, or any violation of the University Computer and Network Resources Use policy.

    » Read More

  • Division of Student Affairs: Bias Response Team

    Speech Code Category: Policies on Bias and Hate Speech
    Last updated: August 27, 2018

    A bias incident is an action taken by an individual or group that may involve, but is not limited to, assault, damage to property, sending of threatening mail or e-mail, graffiti, stalking, verbal harassment and other bias-motivated behavior that is so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that an individual is effectively denied equal access to institutional benefits and opportunities.  As such, these acts are antithetical to the University’s values of inclusion, diversity and social justice. While such acts may be focused on one individual or group, these acts negatively impact our entire community.

    The purpose of the Bias Response Team is to provide support for those impacted by bias-related incidents. The university will not independently investigate or adjudicate bias incident claims as violations of university policy.

    » Read More

  • Policy Library: Computer and Network Resources Use Policy – Interim

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies
    Last updated: May 3, 2018

    VCU computer and network resources must not be used in connection with the following:

    Conduct that harasses, threatens, or otherwise causes harm to individuals in violation of university policy, or state or federal law.

    » Read More

  • Guide to Residential Living: Room Decorations

    Speech Code Category: Posting and Distribution Policies
    Last updated: August 27, 2018

    The University encourages residents to consider that any messages or items posted or displayed in residence hall space communicate directly with neighboring residents, hall mates, and staff who pass. Residents may not post materials that are in violation of applicable university policies, or state or federal law. To support a safe and welcoming residential community, Residential Life and Housing staff, in consultation with the university Bias Response Team, will provide support for members of the community that have been impacted by messages in the residence halls, including through voluntary opportunities for educational programs or mediation, as appropriate.

    » Read More

  • Policy Library: Reservation and Use of Space

    Speech Code Category: Protest and Demonstration Policies
    Last updated: August 27, 2018

    The university is commitment to creating an environment that fosters the exercise of protected speech and other expressive activity on university property while maintaining an atmosphere free of disruption to the mission of the university. It recognizes that the free expression of ideas and open inquiry are essential in fulfilling its academic mission by embracing rigorous open discourse, argumentation, speaking, listening, learning and the exploration of ideas.

    Any university student or employee may generally use campus spaces in accordance with university policy.

    Advance notice and written authorization are required only for Major Events and Event Reservations, as described below.

    a. Expected attendance over 150 persons unless the approved seated occupancy load of the space is greater than 150 persons, in which case any of the other factors render event a Major Event;
    b. Setting with safety concerns (including time and location) based on assessment from the VCU Police;
    c. The event is a dance or concert, regardless of how many attendees;
    d. Presence of any object or substance requiring review by the Office of Environmental Health and Safety, including but not limited to any animal, open flame, firework, pyrotechnic, or other flammable or hazardous item;
    e. Installation of any structure, such as a tent, stage, scaffold, bleacher, bounce house, or carnivalstyle ride;
    f. Alcohol served; or
    g. Outdoor amplified sound, including but not limited to bullhorns, Bluetooth speakers, etc.

    Consistent with lawful protection of expressive activity, VCU will not charge security-related fees based on the content of the expressive activity, the likelihood of disruption caused by others than event attendees, or the actions of those who may protest the expressive activity.

    » Read More

  • College Protests Lack Right Solutions

    November 19, 2015

    By Tallahassee Democrat at The mess at the University of Missouri recently is sending ripples of racial unrest through university campuses nationwide, with some significant long-term implications for American education and politics — as well as the news media. In a little more than 36 hours, thousands of students protesting what they consider the University of Missouri administration’s insensitivity to some ugly racist provocations forced university President Tim Wolfe to resign. The university chancellor also announced plans to quit soon, and Wolfe was replaced on an interim basis by Michael Middleton, a black man who was the deputy chancellor, as well […]

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  • Examiner Local Editorial: Muzzling free speech on campus

    January 2, 2013

    One New Year’s resolution we’d like to see in 2013 is a renewed effort to uphold the First Amendment on college campuses. According to a new report by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE, 62 percent of the nation’s colleges and universities “maintain severely restrictive speech codes … that clearly and substantially prohibit protected speech.” FIRE noted that the overwhelming majority of speech is protected. But narrow exceptions (such as “fighting words,” obscenity and defamation) “are often misused and abused by universities to punish constitutionally protected speech.” Restrictions intended to protect students from harassment or bullying have been […]

    » Read More
  • UVa plans to revise sexual misconduct policy

    May 5, 2011

    The University of Virginia plans to revise its sexual misconduct policy to broaden the scope of offenses and to lower the standard of evidence necessary to find a student guilty. Under the policy, sexual misconduct would become the umbrella term to include any unwelcome sexual behavior. The revision more precisely defines what constitutes assault, harassment and exploitation, including offenses such as cyberstalking, the recording of sexual images and the knowing transmission of a sexually transmitted infection. The policy also would eliminate the geographic limit on UVa’s jurisdiction, which under current policy covers university property or a student or employee residence […]

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  • Students at Virginia Commonwealth Protest Proposed Policy on Demonstrations

    April 24, 2012

    In defense of their free speech rights, students at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) recently took to protesting a proposed new policy aimed in part at student demonstrations at VCU. The policy in question prohibited the following:  Participating in an on-campus or off-campus demonstration, riot or activity that disrupts the normal operations of the University and/or infringes on the rights of others; leading or inciting others to disrupt scheduled and/or normal activities within any campus building or area. The protesting students argued that the policy was too broadly worded and could be used against peaceful demonstrations and rallies, a core First […]

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