The FIRE’s Ten Worst Colleges For Free Speech, 2018

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (The FIRE) is the heroic non-partisan, non-profit that does a lot of the work the ACLU should be doing, but doesn’t. The list (those with links are the colleges covered in 2017 Ethics Alarms posts):

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Troy, N.Y.)

Drexel University (Philadelphia, Pa.)

Harvard University (Cambridge, Mass.)

Los Angeles Community College District (Los Angeles, Calif.)

Fordham University (New York, N.Y.)

Evergreen State College (Olympia, Wash.)

Albion College (Albion, Mich.)

Northwestern University (Evanston, Ill.)

University of California, Berkeley (Berkeley, Calif.)

Texas State University (San Marcos, Texas)

The whole, awful story of each is worth reading, especially in light of yesterday’s “Ethics Quote Of The Week.” FIRE does not rank the unethical colleges, but I’ll say this: Evergreen may be the worst of the worst, but Harvard is the most shameful.

The FIRE is one of the great ethics organizations in the nation, and deserves every citizen’s respect, support, and gratitude.

15 thoughts on “The FIRE’s Ten Worst Colleges For Free Speech, 2018

  1. Good to know. I fear the day my Alma mater, st. John’s College (you might have heard of it, Jack-it’s in your neighborhood), makes the list. That might be hard. They are too politically incorrect to begin with.


  2. At first, I thought it was weird that FIRE would defend the right for a newspaper to publish that drivel titled “Your DNA is an abomination.” But it has to do with the threat to cut funding because they did publish it.

    Also does Ciccariello-Mahar’s tweet “All I want for Christmas is White Genocide” fall under the naked teacher principle? FIRE seems to defend him because the school promised him they wouldn’t.

    • FIRE’s arguments regarding “Your DNA is an abomination” arises from its belief that the newspaper in question is not the voice of the school itself.

      If it were, then Garcetti v. Ceballos, 547 U.S. 410 (2006) clearly applies. States must be able to speak for themselves to function, and they must be able to relieve their agents of their duties if they say something in their official capacities contrary to what the state wants to say. A newspaper published by the state or its subdivisions themselves, being the word of the state, would clearly fall within the limits of Garcetti.

      But if it was simply a newspaper published by students, and funded by the university, then the university is not permitted to deny funding on the basis of the viewpoints of the authors or editors. Universities are not required to subsidize speech by students, but if they do, the funding must be available on an equal basis regardless of viewpoint.

  3. Gosh darn it, my alma mater of RPI of Troy, NY made the cut! It is mostly an engineering and technical school, so while I was there (2011-2015) I didn’t quite even know that there was the whole issue of wokeness occurring, on account of studying and playing video games. I only learned of the problems campuses have after I left college. Though, it was known to students even then, that the long time president, the Right Honorable Shirley Jackson, ruled with an iron fist and would squelch any dissent quickly. Supposedly, the first years of her rule were great for the Institute, and helped change things for the better. But like Nicolae Ceaușescu, that would not last indefinitely. And she is also black, so she can’t really be ever fired, only put on double secret probation. Good thing they’re not calling me for donations yet, because they don’t deserve any, and I’m not rich yet. For what it’s worth, they do give you a fine engineering education, and I wasn’t even really aware of any one sided political indoctrination occurring during classes. It really is hard to stick in “prejudice + power = systemic oppression” into thermodynamics.

    • Drexel (#2) started out as an engineering & science institution, which morphed into other things as it acquired additional schools. Must be the grant money. Thanks for RPI leadership update & “wokeness” formation which I found out now has 6 degrees.

  4. Thanks for highlighting the great work that FIRE does, Jack! I’ve supported them in the past and am reminded to do so regularly. Reading their list for 2018 is especially instructive for those who may be unaware that FIRE is truly non-partisan, (as there is so much focus on the free speech rights of those on the right being violated by Colleges, i.e. Berkeley). They intercede on the behalf of Students for Justice in Palestine, as well as College Republicans, and faculty that dare to question orthodoxy.
    Here is their mission: The mission of FIRE is to defend and sustain individual rights at America’s colleges and universities.
    I’m heartened that they exist, though sad that they are needed.

  5. Texas State (a.k.a. ‘Party State’ when I was in school) is known for river tubing, beer parties, and Students from Austin who could not cut it at the University of Texas. That toxic mix allows slime to grow without the usual bleach being rural adds.

    FIRE is a great resource.

  6. I see Harvard has a new president. Both his parents fled Europe, his mother, the only member of her family to survive the Holocaust, and his father who fled Soviet pogroms. They were cannoli makers in Pontiac, Michigan. The new president proceeded to get an undergraduate degree from MIT and a law degree and then a Ph.D from Harvard. He’s a guy in his sixties. Are Jews white or people of color? I’ve never been clear on that. Do concentration camps and pogroms constitute discrimination?

    From the Boston Globe:

    Harvard students had mixed reactions, some calling him an “establishment candidate” because he is a middle-aged white male. Freshman Sahil Handa said those people haven’t looked hard enough.

    “While many have already rejected his appointment on the grounds of his identity as a white male, such criticism is mere identity politics and overlooks the fact that he offers a wealth of experience, expertise, and a stable hand suitable for such an unpredictable time,” said Handa, who is from London.

    I suspect young Master Handa may be in for a rough time. I suspect he’ll wish he had been described as an anonymous freshman.

  7. Fifth Column Podcast has a great discussion on whether or not there is a campus free speech crisis. Yes. And No. And sort of. And both at the same time.

    Great perspective. Other topics discussed as well:

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