Western Kentucky University

Location: Bowling Green, Kentucky
Website: http://www.wku.edu
Type: Public
Federal Circuit: 6th Circuit

Speech Code Rating

Western Kentucky 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
  • Information Technology Acceptable Use Policy

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies
    Last updated: November 28, 2016

    Examples of inappropriate conduct include: …

    • Using abusive or harassing language in either public or private messages or content;
    • Knowingly visiting pornographic or illegal sites; and/or disseminating, soliciting, or storing sexually oriented messages or images that are not required as part of educational requirements.

    » Read More

  • Title IX: Sexual Assault/Misconduct Brochure

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: November 28, 2016

    Sexual Misconduct/Assault Defined

    Examples include, but are not limited to, the following:

    • Unwelcome physical contact such as touching
    • Persistent, unwelcome requests for sexual contact
    • Requests for romantic or sexual contact from someone who grades, advises, or supervises you
    • Sexualized behavior accompanied by promise of reward or threat of harm
    • Unwelcome sexual remarks about a person’s clothing, body, sex, or sexual orientation
    • Offensive sexual questions, jokes, and stories
    • Display of sexually offensive posters, pictures, words, or messages
    • Introduction of sexual explicit material into the classroom or workplace without an educational or work-related purpose
    • Sexual violence or rape
    • Retaliation for making a complaint of sexual misconduct

    » Read More


Green Light Policies
  • Student Handbook: Regulations Governing Time, Place and Manner of Meetings, Assemblies or Demonstrations

    Speech Code Category: Protest and Demonstration Policies
    Last updated: November 28, 2016

    Planned or spontaneous meetings, assemblies or demonstrations may be conducted by members of the University community in those appropriate areas of the campus which are regularly available to the University community ….

    Reservations are not required for utilization of the following areas: … WKU is an open campus providing spontaneous speech, protests and distribution of literature in lawns, quads, grassy, park areas, and similar spaces that are suitable for the purpose of public forums for WKU Students irrespective of whether the University has designated or not.

    » Read More

  • Student Handbook: Student Rights and Responsibilities

    Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression
    Last updated: November 28, 2016

    Students have the right to enjoy the same freedoms as are guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States and the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and to expect an education of the highest quality.

    » Read More

  • Student Code of Student Conduct: Harassment

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: November 28, 2016

    Any physical, behavioral or verbal abuse of a person based upon gender, race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, creed, religion, political belief, sexual orientation, marital status, age, uniform service, veteran status, or physical or mental disability, where:

    1. Tolerance of or participation in the offensive conduct explicitly or implicitly becomes a condition of employment or participation in a university course, program or activity; or

    2. The conduct is sufficiently severe, pervasive or persistent to interfere with an individual’s work, academic or program participation; or

    3. The conduct creates an environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or offensive.

    Such conduct includes, but is not limited to stalking, cyber stalking, cyber bullying/harassment, and retaliation as a result of complaints or alleged misconduct.

    » Read More

  • Discrimination and Harassment Policy

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: November 28, 2016

    B. Harassment: any physical, behavioral or verbal abuse of a person based upon gender, race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, creed, religion, political belief, sexual orientation, marital status, age, uniform service, veteran status, or physical or mental disability, where:

    1. Tolerance of or participation in the offensive conduct explicitly or implicitly becomes a condition of employment or participation in a university course, program or activity; or

    2. The conduct is sufficiently severe, pervasive or persistent to interfere with an individual’s work, academic or program participation; or

    3. The conduct creates an environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or offensive.

    C. Sexual Harassment: unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical behavior of a sexual nature, where:

    1. Tolerance of or participation in the offensive conduct explicitly or implicitly becomes a condition of employment or participation in a university course, program or activity; or

    2. The conduct is sufficiently severe, pervasive or persistent as to interfere with an individual’s work, academic or program participation; or

    3. The conduct creates an environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile or offensive.

    D. Hostile Work Environment: Actions or behavior which discriminate against a member of a protected classification (i.e., gender, race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, creed, religion, political belief, sexual orientation, marital status, age, uniform service, veteran status, or physical or mental disability), and are severe and pervasive to the extent that the actions or behavior interfere with an employee’s ability to perform his or her job or interfere with a student’s access to educational opportunities.

    » Read More

  • First Amendment & Academic Freedom

    Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression
    Last updated: November 28, 2016

    Title IX is intended to protect students from sex discrimination, not to regulate the content of speech. OCR recognizes that the offensiveness of a particular expression as perceived by some students, standing alone, is not a legally sufficient basis to establish a sexually hostile environment under Title IX. In order to establish a violation of Title IX, the harassment must be sufficiently serious to deny or limit a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from the education program.

    Moreover, in regulating the conduct of its students and its faculty to prevent or redress discrimination prohibited by Title IX (e.g., in responding to harassment that is sufficiently serious as to create a hostile environment), a school must formulate, interpret, and apply its rules so as to protect academic freedom and free speech rights.

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  • KY School Responds to Call for Speech Policy Change

    April 18, 2014

    By Bob Kellogg at OneNewsNow Western Kentucky University made the change after the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and WKU’s Student Government Association challenged a policy that prohibited the use of school email resources for “[t]ransmitting statements, language, images or other materials that are reasonably likely to be perceived as offensive ….” Robert Shibley, executive vice president of FIRE, says similar policies are commonplace on America’s university campuses these days. “Over and over again, FIRE sees universities try to limit speech in an attempt to prevent anyone from being offended,” he tells OneNewsNow. “But unfortunately what they’re doing is limiting […]

    » Read More
  • University says condom vandalism of pro-life display has been ‘properly, decisively’ dealt with

    April 24, 2012

    BOWLING GREEN, KENTUCKY, April 24, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – The president of Western Kentucky University said the desecration of an approved pro-life display has been “properly, decisively” dealt with – although a pro-life student group has pointed out that there has been no apology to the pro-life students, and the student responsible has apparently not been disciplined. In fact, according to Students for Life, the woman who placed condoms over each cross in the pro-life display may still receive college credit for her act of vandalism. The student group Hilltoppers for Life got university permission to erect 3,700 crosses in a […]

    » Read More
  • Student Newspaper’s First Amendment Lawsuit Against University of Kansas Administrators Is Important Reminder about Need to Check Student Government Power

    February 10, 2016

    On February 5, the University Daily Kansan filed a lawsuit against two administrators of the University of Kansas (KU), alleging that the administrators failed to intervene when the student government slashed funding to the Kansan over an editorial criticizing the results of a student government election. The Kansan story begins in April 2014, when a slate of candidates for student government positions were declared ineligible the night before the election, resulting in two students who received a minority of votes—Morgan Said and Miranda Wagner—being elected to office. In response, the Kansan published an editorial by attorney and professor Mark Johnson […]

    » Read More
  • Western Kentucky University Revises Speech Code of the Month Policy

    March 17, 2014

    In some good news for free speech on campus, Western Kentucky University (WKU) has revised a “Computing Ethics” policy that drew condemnation from the university’s Student Government Association (SGA) and was named FIRE’s Speech Code of the Month for March 2014. Because this was WKU’s only “red light” policy, the university now earns an improved, “yellow light” rating in FIRE’s Spotlight database.

    » Read More
  • Speech Code of the Month: Western Kentucky University

    March 10, 2014

    FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for March 2014: Western Kentucky University (WKU). WKU’s Computing Ethics Policy prohibits using university email to send messages that are “reasonably likely to be perceived as offensive or disparaging” based on personal characteristics, and it also prohibits the use of email for “advocating religious or political opinions.” This viewpoint-discriminatory policy effectively shuts down open discourse over the university’s email system and threatens academic freedom by severely restricting what students and faculty members can say—and how they can say it—when discussing important political and social issues.

    » Read More
  • Continuing Progress for Western Kentucky University Reform Efforts

    October 29, 2013

    As FIRE’s Sarah McLaughlin reported earlier this month, students at Western Kentucky University (WKU) are working to move their university one step closer to a better Spotlight rating. Last week, WKU’s College Heights Herald reported on the continuing success of their efforts. Torch readers may remember that Student Government Association (SGA) Director of Public Relations Laura Harper has spearheaded the reform movement at WKU. After learning that FIRE had rated the university’s Computing Ethics Policy as a “red light,” Laura drafted a resolution urging WKU to revise the policy. The resolution not only points to the inherent problems with the policy’s overly broad and vague speech restrictions but also highlights the […]

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  • Student at IU Attempts to Censor Fellow Students by Vandalizing Pro-Life Display

    October 1, 2013

    FIRE often exposes how colleges censor students—but last week, it was a student at Indiana University who decided to engage in some vigilante censorship by vandalizing a pro-life display. According to a student account, new student organization Students for Life at IU intended to have a peaceful demonstration on campus as part of an organized protest dubbed the “Planned Parenthood Project.” The trouble reportedly began when a student approached the demonstration, removed wooden crosses meant to represent the number of abortions performed daily by Planned Parenthood from the ground, and threw them into a trash can. (The student report includes a photo of this.) […]

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  • Western Kentucky Removes Restrictions on Social Media, but Policy Remains a ‘Red Light’

    March 23, 2012

    Western Kentucky University (WKU) has revised a “red light” policy in its Student Handbook regulating student use of social media, according to the WKU student newspaper the College Heights Herald. The move is a boon for WKU students’ free speech rights, who will now enjoy greater freedoms when using Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. We are pleased to report this development, and we commend WKU’s administration for taking this step to uphold students’ rights in this ever-expanding area of expression. However, problems remain with the policy, labeled “Information Technology.” (You can find it beginning on page 39 of WKU’s […]

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  • Western Kentucky U. Getting Tough on Social Media at Expense of First Amendment

    February 27, 2012

    As reported late last week by the College Heights Herald and today by the Associated Press, Western Kentucky University is making alarming inroads against its students’ use of social media. First, WKU President Gary Ransdell took to the university’s official Facebook page with this message for students about “responsible” use of social media applications. Ransdell wrote in part that   We, at WKU, have become particularly conscious lately of some who are misusing social media and using some poor judgment. So my message here is “Be smart.” Use social media thoughtfully; always remember what you send is permanent and can […]

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  • Western Kentucky U. Student Senator Seeks to Reform ‘Red Light’ Policy

    February 22, 2012

    The College Heights Herald, the main student newspaper at Western Kentucky University (WKU), reports a promising development coming from WKU’s Student Government Association. Student senator Christopher Costa, the Herald reports, is preparing a resolution for consideration by the SGA that would call for the removal of WKU’s External Computer Use and Ethics policy from WKU’s student handbook. The section on external computer use (part of WKU’s Information Technology policy), states: Communications on sites such as Facebook, etc. will not be actively policed; however, students should be aware that the information posted on the internet can be viewed by university officials […]

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  • Your Tuition Dollars at Work

    September 16, 2010

    We have written before about the problem of administrative bloat on college campuses and its tendency to lead to the micromanagement of students’ lives, particularly in the area of free speech. As Azhar discussed last month here on The Torch, a recent study by the Goldwater Institute found that between 1993 and 2007, the number of administrators for every 100 college students increased by 39 percent, while the number of professors and researchers for every 100 students rose by only 18 percent during the same period. Obviously, the role of college administrators in creating and enforcing unconstitutional speech codes is […]

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