Campus Speech

FIRE Announces This Year’s List of Ten Worst Colleges for Free Speech

Van Winkle Hall, Babson College, 231 Forest Street, Wellesley, Massachusetts, USA. August 1, 2010. Daderot/Wikimedia Commons.

Every year since 2011, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has issued a list of 10 individual colleges and universities that, via policies or actions, have threatened the free speech rights of their students and faculty. The list gets published on FIRE’s website and includes explanations for why each institution made the cut.

This year’s list includes Babson College, a private Massachusetts school, for firing an adjunct professor for a satirical Facebook post; Jones College, a private college in Mississippi, for repeatedly stopping a student from recruiting for a conservative student club; and Doane University, a small liberal arts college in Nebraska, for suspending a librarian for “curating a historical display highlighting the university’s own photos of its racist past.”  

Harvard University is also on the list for multiple reasons. FIRE cites a new blacklist for students who join single-gender clubs, a “troublingly vague” speaker policy requiring students to have neutral moderators for panel discussions, and the school’s decision to relieve law professor Ronald Sullivan of his duties as faculty dean after students argued that his having defended Harvey Weinstein made him unfit for the job.

Though private colleges and universities, unlike their public counterparts, are not legally bound by the First Amendment, the vast majority advertise themselves as places where free speech is valued and protected. For this reason, FIRE includes private universities that “explicitly” promise to respect student and faculty rights. 

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), the last school on the list (though it was not organized in any particular order), won FIRE’s  “Lifetime Censorship Award,” for its repeated efforts to censor students who are critical of the administration, as well as their limitation their ability to freely pass out flyers and petitions.

You can see the full list here.