Western Washington University

Location: Bellingham, Washington
Website: http://www.wwu.edu
Type: Public
Federal Circuit: 9th Circuit

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Speech Code Rating

Western Washington 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.

  • Western Washington University: Student Investigated Over Parking Ticket Remark

    October 21, 2011

    After receiving a parking ticket from WWU’s Parking Services Division in September 2011, student Jacob Ramirez sent in his payment via personal check, writing “F— the Police” on both the check and the ticket. Two weeks later, WWU notified him that he was being investigated for a possible violation of WWU’s Student Rights and Responsibilities Code, alleging that his message constituted an “unwanted and/or intimidating contact and/or communication of a threatening nature.” After FIRE reminded WWU of its obligation to protect Ramirez’s free speech rights, WWU closed its investigation and apologized to Ramirez, acknowledging that it was “inappropriate” to use […]

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Yellow Light Policies
  • Chapter 516-21 WAC: Student Conduct Code- Harassment (other than sexual harassment or discriminatory harassment)

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: September 27, 2018

    Harassment is conduct by any means that is severe or pervasive. It is of such a nature that it would cause a reasonable person in the complainant’s position substantial emotional distress and undermine their ability to work, study, or participate in their regular life activities or participate in the activities of the university. Harassment causes the complainant substantial emotional distress and undermines the complainant’s ability to work, study, or participate in the complainant’s regular life activities or participate in the activities of the university.

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  • Chapter 516-21 WAC: Student Conduct Code- Discrimination and discriminatory harassment

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: September 27, 2018

    (1) Sexual harassment is a violation of the code. Sexual harassment is unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature including unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal, nonverbal, electronic, or physical conduct of a sexual nature, when:
    (a) It has a tangible impact on a student’s education including, but not limited to, classroom experiences, academic grades, living environment, participation in a university activity; or
    (b) It is sufficiently severe and/or pervasive to interfere with a member of the university community’s ability to work, study, or participate in their regular activities, or benefit from the university’s programs or activities and creates a hostile environment.
    (2) Gender-based harassment includes nonsexual acts of verbal, nonverbal, or physical aggression, intimidation, or hostility based on a person’s gender or nonconformity with gender stereotypes, and is a violation of the code. Gender-based harassment violates this code when it is sufficiently severe and/or pervasive, such that it denies or limits another’s ability to work, study, participate in, or benefit from the university’s programs or activities.

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  • Chapter 516-21 WAC: Student Conduct Code- Misuse of computers, electronic data or communication systems

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies
    Last updated: September 27, 2018

    Misuse of computers, electronic data, or communication systems is a violation of the code. This includes, but is not limited to:

    (4) The use of campus computing facilities, networks (including wireless networks), equipment, or services to “cyber stalk” another person or to send obscene, abusive, harassing, or sexually harassing messages …

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  • Exterior Space Use

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

    All outside activities with a potential impact on the normal conduct of the University’s operation must be scheduled through the Viking Union Reservations Office. Outside activity space requests must be approved beforehand with request of a particular space through the Viking Union Reservations Office, at which time the following will take place:

    a. Verification of authority of requesting party to  reserve space on campus and clarification of  event specifics.

    b.  Verification of availability of space/check for  potential conflict with other activities.  Referral to appropriate office if covered under  exemptions in section D.1., or other university requirements, in which case further review would follow that office’s procedures.  However, processing for all student and off­  campus groups will follow procedures contained herein.

    c.  Examination of potential effect on on­going activity of the university, including contacting  offices or departments which may be impacted,  if necessary.

    d.  Review by other administrative officials, if  necessary, due to scope or impact of program,  e.g., unusual space, precedent possibilities.

    e.  Approval or denial by Director of the Viking Union/Student Activities. Approval may  contain specific requirements as a condition of  approval.

    f.  Distribution of approved event information to  Vice President for Student Affairs, Space Administration, Public Safety, Grounds and any  party with a particular interest in a certain  activity.

    g.  Inclusion in the Event Services Reservation  System and distribution through the “University Events Report,” which is produced daily and  available in the Viking Union Administrative  Office, as well as the Viking Union Information  Desk.

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  • Posting Policy (Campus Wide)

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

    1. Interior Spaces
    Displays on building interiors must be confined to bulletin boards or similar areas provided for that purpose. Attaching signs or other displays to walls, doors, stairs, railings, balconies or other interior structures causes damage and creates hazards and is, therefore, prohibited.

    iv) Open Posting – Any posting areas not designated for a particular purpose noted herein, or subsequently assigned by the Viking Union Administration or an authorized department, are available for use by any individual or group, provided that other applicable sections of this policy are observed. Commercial postings are only allowed on unassigned open posting boards.

    b) Temporary/Event Related
    i) Event Components – These materials shall be defined as graphic components of a particular event which are an integral part of that event. Such materials shall be approved for posting only during the course of and immediately preceding the event. Notices of cancellation or change of a program location shall be included within this definition.

    iii) Conditions for Approval – Only banners advertising events of a campus wide nature and sponsored by University organizations will be approved for posting. On-going promotional material will not be permitted. Requests will be considered on a first come basis.
    iv) Time and Number Limitations – Banners will be approved for a maximum of one (1) week of posting time. A maximum of one (1) banner per month, per organization will be allowed.
    v) Posting and Removal – Posting and removing of banners is the responsibility of the AS Publicity Center.

    d) Open Posting
    i) General – All unassigned bulletin boards may be used in accordance with the provisions of this section. Commercial postings are only allowed on unassigned open posting boards.
    ii) Number – Only one (1) poster per event or activity is permitted per board.
    iii) Time – Posters should be removed immediately after the event or activity which they are advertising.
    iv) Location – Materials may not be posted over other posters. Areas such as walls, windows, doors, garbage cans, light posts and other non-designated surfaces are prohibited.
    v) Size – Posters must be no larger than 11″ x 17”.
    vi) Violation/Charges – Groups in violation of this policy may be charged for work required to enforce this policy.

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  • Bias Incident Reporting Form

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

    Western wants to address bias, harassment and discrimination within our community.  So that the appropriate people can respond and assist those who are targeted, we need to know what happens and how often.  By reporting incidents, you become part of the solution.

    Bias incidents can be demonstrations of bias, hate, harassment, or discrimination against an individual or group because of the individual or group’s actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex (including pregnancy and parenting status), disability, veteran status, age, and/or marital status.  Demonstrations of bias can be in the form of language, words, signs, symbols, threats, or actions that could potentially cause alarm, anger, or fear in others, or that endanger the health, safety, and welfare of a member of the University community, even if presented as a joke.

    The conduct underlying some bias incidents may be protected speech, but also violate Western’s commitment to civility and diversity.  In such situations, while protecting Constitutional rights, University staff may also exercise their right to speak and engage in educational dialogue.

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  • College President Cancels Classes Because of ‘Hate Speech’ from ‘Lowlifes’ on Social Media

    November 24, 2015

    By Greg Piper at The College Fix  Western Washington University President Bruce Shepard was so mad at the “hate speech” he saw on social media Monday against “students of color” that he sent the community astream-of-consciousness missive with ALL CAPS, punctuation errors and repeated references to “trolls” and “lowlifes.” Classes have been canceled today despite a law enforcement assessment that “there is no threat to general campus safety,” Shepard said: However, and I trust you stand with me on this: a threat to any one of us is an attack on all of us. Shepard claimed he couldn’t share details because […]

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  • WWU Admits Error in Using Student Code to Investigate Protected Speech

    November 1, 2011

    FIRE likes to give credit where it’s due when a university is forthright about errors it made in violating the rights of students. While we already commended Western Washington University last week for quickly doing the right thing and ending its investigation of student Jacob Ramirez, WWU’s official response to FIRE deserves its own additional praise. That’s because it makes an important point: Universities must not use their disciplinary codes as tools to summon students to account for their protected speech. If you’re not familiar with Ramirez’s case, here’s what happened. Jacob Ramirez found himself in trouble with WWU due to his response to being […]

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  • Victory: Western Washington University Drops Investigation of Student Over Parking Ticket Remark

    October 27, 2011

    Western Washington University (WWU) student Jacob Ramirez recently found out he was the subject of a university investigation due to a comment he wrote on a parking ticket he received. After FIRE intervened, WWU quickly backtracked, dropping the case and clearing the student’s record. Jacob Ramirez’s case began around September 30, when he was issued a ticket and $25 fine by WWU’s Parking Services department. Annoyed, Ramirez paid the ticket with a personal check and, on both the check and the returned parking ticket, wrote the phrase “Fuck the Police”—a thought that at least in general terms has most likely […]

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  • Are Pictures of Abortion ‘Hate Speech?’

    May 11, 2006

    Last week, Phi Beta Cons noted a story in the Bellingham (Wash.) Herald describing yet another instance of vandalism of a pro-life display. According to the Herald, Western Washington University student David Janus Zhang was so enraged by a “display showing pictures of aborted fetuses next to images of genocide” that he jumped over a fence and tried to destroy it. Zhang inflicted $2,700 worth of damage in the course of what a university police officer called “a rampage.” He was arrested and jailed; he now faces charges of malicious mischief and disorderly conduct charges.   Now, in response to […]

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