On-campus free speech slowly improving

April 5, 2012

Although only 12 are listed on the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education‘s (FIRE) list of "Worst Colleges for Free Speech in 2012," the organization asserts that the roll could be much longer.

FIRE vice president Robert Shibley says the list includes institutions that severely violate the speech rights of students, faculty members — and sometimes both.

"Our number-one was the University of Cincinnati in Ohio, where they limit demonstrations, pickets and rallies to only one-tenth of one percent of their campus — and you have to reserve that ten days in advance," he details. That is a small portion of the school’s 137-acre campus. Students could face trespassing charges if the request is not made.

Shibley recognizes that the situation is getting better on college campuses, but notes it is happening very slowly. He says four years ago, 75 percent of colleges and universities had what FIRE labels "red light" speech codes. That number has dropped.

"That’s down to about 65 percent now, which is still far too many, and it’s a very slow drop," the FIRE vice president offers. "But I think free speech is getting better on campuses, but very slowly. Unfortunately, religious liberty and due process are getting worse."

The University of Cincinnati is new to the list, along with Harvard, Yale and Syracuse. At the latter, an education student was expelled for complaining on his own Facebook page about a comment he thought was racially insulting. The student was required to undergo counseling and diversity training just to earn a chance of re-admission to the school.

Schools: University of Cincinnati Syracuse University Harvard University Yale University