FIRE ranks the best and worst colleges for free speech: report

college students

A new report has ranked America’s colleges on their openness to free speech, especially for students and speakers who hold conservative views at illiberal universities.

The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, formerly known as the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), released the 2022-2023 Free Speech Index on Wednesday. The ranking, created by FIRE in partnership with College Pulse, is based on the results of a survey of nearly 45,000 college students from more than 200 of the largest and most prestigious colleges and universities in the United States

The third annual survey asked college students about the climate for free speech and expression on their college campus, taking into account institutions’ written policies on free speech.

In particular, FIRE asked students for their opinion on whether it was acceptable to engage in disruptive behavior to try to prevent a speaker from voicing their opinion, such as preventing other students from attending a campus speech” or ” Use force to stop a campus speech”. The survey examined students’ tolerance for conservative and progressive speakers and their comfort level when expressing their ideas in different locations on campus.

The survey also asked students about campus administrators’ views on free speech and the difficulty of having “open conversations” about contentious issues on campus. In addition to analyzing the free speech climate at individual colleges, FIRE examined the views of American students as a whole on free speech. According to FIRE, 63% of students said they feared “reputational damage” if they spoke out.

While 42% of Conservative students said they were “often” uncomfortable with openly sharing their beliefs, only 13% of Liberal students said the same. Likewise, 40% of students said they were uncomfortable contradicting a professor, whether in public or on an assignment.

College students showed particular hostility to conservative viewpoints.

A vast majority of students (74%) said they believe those who view transgenderism as a mental disorder should not have the right to speak on campus, and 60% want to ban speakers who believe that Abortion should be banned.

Similarly, 74% of students also opposed allowing speakers who characterize Black Lives Matter as a hate group, and 69% wanted to prevent speakers challenging the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Along with the student survey, FIRE considered “administrative behavior” in calculating an “overall score” to determine a college or university’s support for free speech.

In compiling the rankings of US colleges, FIRE also used information previously compiled from several of its databases, documenting how often over the past three years campus administrators either “supported” or “sanctioned” scholars caught in a “controversial to freedom of expression”.

The ranking also took into account the number of speakers disinvited from campus over the past three years, as well as the “FIRE Speech Code Rating” given to each campus in the form of a “red light”, “amber light” or “FIRE Speech Code Rating”. ‘ was given the ‘green light’ for its restrictions on freedom of expression.

“That so many students are silencing themselves and silencing each other is an indictment of campus culture,” said FIRE Senior Research Fellow Sean Stevens. “How can students develop their own voices and ideas in college when they’re too afraid to engage with each other?”

The poll found that the University of Chicago had the best free speech climate in the US, while Columbia University in New York City had the worst. The University of Chicago had an overall score of 77.92, indicating a “good” climate for language, while Columbia University’s overall score of 9.91 represented a “poor” climate for free speech on campus.

In addition to the University of Chicago, the top five free speech schools in the US consisted of Kansas State University, Purdue University in Indiana, Mississippi State University and Oklahoma State University. All five schools achieved an overall score of at least 74.35. Claremont McKenna College in California was the only other school to receive an overall score greater than 70.

Columbia University had the lousy category for itself, but the University of Pennsylvania, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, Georgetown University in Washington, DC, and Skidmore College in New York rounded out the bottom five. The overall score at these schools ranged from 14.32 to 21.51, reflecting the language climate, which was rated as either ‘very poor’ or ‘poor’.

FIRE included five other private colleges that were surveyed on a separate list of “schools to be warned.” These schools “have policies that state clearly and consistently that they prioritize other values ​​over the commitment to free speech.”

The list of “schools to be warned” consisted entirely of prominent private religious schools: Hillsdale College in Michigan, Pepperdine University in California, Brigham Young University in Utah, Baylor University in Texas, and St. Louis University in Missouri.

In addition to Hillsdale, which had a “slightly above average” overall score of 57.51, the other four schools had “below average” overall scores ranging from 32.19 to 37.59. Overall, 91 schools achieved overall marks of “slightly below average” or worse, while only 39 received overall marks of “slightly above average” or better. The remaining 83 schools had “average” overall scores between 45 and 55.

Each individual college included in the survey has its own page of student comments describing their free speech experiences on campus. The release of the FIRE poll comes as colleges across the US have drawn national attention for their hostility towards speakers with conservative views.

Earlier this year, Jeff Younger, who lost custody of his transgender son after objecting to his ex-wife’s efforts to put their child on puberty blockers, was invited by the Young Conservatives of Texas to attend the University of North Texas to speak in Denton.

Protesters came to the event and tried to stop Younger from speaking by banging on the table, triggering noisemakers, clapping their hands and chanting “F*** you, Fascist.” The protests against Younger also extended outside the classroom where his speech was given, with hundreds of student protesters gathering outside the building.

The University of North Texas ranked 166th out of 203 surveyed colleges in FIRE’s free speech rankings, achieving an overall score of 35.83, reflecting a “below average” free speech environment.

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: [email protected]

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