Good News for Free Speech in US Colleges

There has been much discussion around the world about academic freedom and free speech on campus. There have been suggestions that academic freedom should be incorporated into rankings.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has been particularly concerned with issues of individual freedom in American higher education including campus speech codes, discrimination against conservative or libertarian speakers, and the lack of due process in student disciplinary proceedings.

FIRE has published its 2021 report, Spotlight on Speech Codes, that suggests that the situation in American public institutions is improving. The number of colleges and universities with severe speech restrictions, which causes them to be classified as Red Light schools, has continued to fall and now accounts for 24% of public institutions.

Red Light institutions maintain “at least one policy that clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech, or bars public access to its speech-related policies by requiring a university login and password for access.”

The majority of public schools, 65%, are classified as Yellow Light “policies are either clear restrictions on a narrower range of expression or policies that, by virtue of vague wording, could too easily be applied to restrict protected expression. “

A total of 56 colleges and universities, 12% of those surveyed, have a Green Light meaning that there are no written policies that imperil protected expression. The number of these is gradually increasing.

New Green Light schools include Colorado Mesa University, Fayetteville State University, Florida State University, Jackson State University, and the University of Colorado Boulder.

Further good news is that 76 institutions have adopted the Chicago statement on free speech principles.




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