The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) reports that less than half of America’s colleges maintain policies that severely restrict students’ right to free speech, an all time low since the campus speech defending non-profit started tracking the problem.
Spotlight on Speech Codes 2016: The State of Free Speech on Our Nation’s Campuses reports on policies at 440 of America’s largest and most prestigious colleges and universities.
The report tells us that…
- 49.3 percent of surveyed institutions maintain “red light” speech codes, which clearly and substantially restrict protected speech.
- George Mason University, Purdue University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Western State Colorado University, the University of North Florida, and Purdue University Calumet eliminated all of their speech codes this year, earning FIRE’s highest, “green light” rating.
- The percentage of red light schools has declined from a high of 75 percent in 2007, while in the same time period the number of green light institutions has grown from just eight institutions (2 percent) to 22 this year (5 percent).
This welcome news is especially surprising given the explosion of administration capitulations to student demands for restrictions on campus expression deemed “offensive” or “hostile” to minorities. In fact, I wonder how much of the report was complete before Mizzou Madness.
The report still contains ominous portents. FIRE downgraded ten universities from a “yellow light” rating to the red light rating for adopting restrictive definitions of sexual harassment, thanks to pressure from Obama’s Department of education. Indeed, the federal government was largely behind more private universities earning red light ratings (bad), which increased from 58.7 percent last year to 60.6 percent in 2015. FIRE notes that outgoing U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently said that the Department of Education “want[s] to do more” in response to recent racial tensions on campus. Says FIRE: “If the department’s actions with regard to racial harassment parallel those it has taken with regard to sexual harassment, this could lead to additional restrictions on protected speech in the future.”
Since the ACLU has largely abandoned its defense of student and faculty expression at universities and colleges, the work of FIRE is more important than ever. If you are looking for a worthy recipient of a year-end tax-deductable donation, you will not find a more admirable or deserving one than The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.