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Student conduct

Freedom of expression for students

As a university, we are dedicated to the pursuit of the truth — no matter how uncomfortable that truth is or what power structures or belief systems it challenges. Our duty in pursuing truth is to serve all members of our society by shedding light on reality, rationality and possibility.

The right to free speech and expression is broad and allows for speech that is offensive and that most of us would consider disrespectful, and even sexist or racist. We are committed to the free exchange of ideas and free expression, and are obligated to uphold this right as a public institution firmly committed and legally bound to permit speech that falls within the broad definition of protected expression.

A university should — indeed it must — be a place where any policy or idea, even if offensive or outrageous, can be aired, discussed, examined and debated. That’s a cornerstone of our democratic system, and the University of Washington’s commitment to this ideal is rock solid.

As an educational institution, we strive to give our students the intellectual tools to shed light upon difficult, complicated, messy problems — to apply reason to what can be highly charged, emotional issues and to conduct the debate or discussion with civility and the utmost respect for others’ right to air their points of view.

We will not always agree but we must all take responsibility for engaging with each other respectfully, for truly listening to each other and for keeping our minds open to new ideas. That, after all, is why we’re all here: to learn with and from each other.

Student conduct code

Questions arising around student activities relating to freedom of expression are addressed by the provisions of the UW Student Conduct Code.

The University’s Student Conduct Code is Washington Administrative Code (WAC) 478-121. The University has also developed two companion policies, Student Governance Policy, Chapter 209 and Chapter 210, which explain how student conduct proceedings work and a student’s rights in the process.

Issues around freedom of expression on campus generally fall under the “disruption or obstruction” section of the code.

If you have questions or concerns regarding an alleged violation of the Student Conduct Code please contact us at 206-685-6194 or

UW Student Conduct site