FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, has good news and bad news to report on the Free Speech front on college campuses.
The good news is that, “For the 10th year in a row, the percentage of universities maintaining written policies that severely restrict students’ free speech rights has decreased.” The bad news is that, “more than 90 percent of universities still maintain at least one policy that either restricts protected speech or can too easily be interpreted to do so.” This from a new report from FIRE.
FIRE rates campuses on a “red light, yellow lights, green light” rating system. A campus that severely restricts constitutionally protected free speech with speech codes and other policies, will receive a “red light” rating. A “yellow light” rating indicates policies that prohibit or restrict free speech, though not as severely. A “green light” rating indicates a college campus that, by and large, respects constitutionally protected speech, even if some people find that speech offensive.
Of the 461 institutions of higher education rated by FIRE, only 37 received a “green light” rating. This is discouraging, to be sure. But, in 2009, FIRE gave their coveted “green light” rating to only nine colleges.
So, progress has been made. Clearly, however, there’s a great deal more to do.
I simply cannot wrap my head around a college campus, an institution that, by definition, is supposed to encourage critical thinking and exposure to various worldviews, would put in place policies that restrict free speech. Why respect for constitutionally protected speech isn’t a matter of course on college campuses is beyond me.
FIRE is a great organization that has assisted many students to secure respect for their First Amendment right to free speech. If you’re interested on where your college or your child’s college is on FIRE’s list, you can check out their “Speech Code Ratings” on their website. If what you find concerns you, write to the college administration and demand that the First Amendment be respected on the college campus of your interest and investment.
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