FIRE report: 9 out of 10 Universities (Still) Restrict Free Speech


For more than a decade now, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has published its Spotlight on Speech Codes report, an annual survey of speech policies at hundreds of universities across the United States. Yesterday, we unveiled our latest report.

I’ll start with the good news. First, the percentage of universities receiving FIRE’s worst, “red-light” rating, has fallen to its lowest ever, at 28.5%. Compare this to our first report, when three quarters of all universities bore this distinction. Second, the number of schools receiving our “green-light” rating, meaning that their policies, as written, are fully consistent with the First Amendment’s requirements. This year, 42 such institutions can claim the honor.

Now for the less-good news: A decisive majority of institutions (61%) receive FIRE’s “yellow-light” rating. This is better than a red-light rating in that the policies on paper are not plainly unconstitutional as written. However, the rating means that their policies as written are too vague to pass First Amendment muster, and could easily be abused to unconstitutional ends. (Both public and private universities are included in the report; while private institutions are not bound by the First Amendment, they often make robust free speech promises, and we assess them accordingly.) This means that, even with the significant policy improvements many universities have made in recent years, 90% of the schools in the survey still fail to live up to their free speech obligations in their policies.

There’s much more to take away from FIRE’s report; our press release announcing the report is here, and you can view the full copy of the report here.

Published in Education
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  1. Richard Easton Coolidge
    Richard Easton

    I didn’t see Hillsdale College listed.  

    • #1
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