Syracuse University among worst colleges for free speech for second straight year

March 27, 2012

Syracuse University was named one of the worst colleges in the nation for freedom of speech for the second year in a row, according to a list published by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) on Tuesday.

Syracuse was ranked second on the 2012 list after appearing at the top of the 2011 list.

Greg Lukianoff, President of FIRE, wrote in The Huffington Post that the list includes repeat offenders that "[refuse] to undo serious punishments of what should be clearly protected speech on campus."

Lukianoff attributed SU’s selection this year to a controversial case involving School of Education graduate student Matt Werenczak.

According to NewsChannel 9, Werenczak was student-teaching at Danforth Middle School when an African American community activist made a comment that offended him.

"We need to start hiring our teachers from historically black colleges," the activist said inside Danforth.

Werenczak complained about the comment on Facebook, posting "Mind you, two white tutors were in the room. I’ll let you take your own inference from that."

SU deemed the post "unprofessional, offensive, and insensitive" in a letter informing Werenczak that he could be administratively removed from the school for his actions. He was forced to undergo anger-management counseling, complete a course on cultural diversity and write a reflective paper if he wanted to be readmitted to the school. Just two hours after FIRE published Werenczak’s story, the University readmitted him into the program.

Lukianoff said Werenczak’s story was worse than last year’s free speech controversy at SU, when the College of Law threatened to expel a student for his role in the satirical blog "SUCOLitis." Len Auduer, a second-year law student, was issued a gag order for the blog and charged with harassment before SU decided to stop the investigation.

The "SUCOLitis" case earned Syracuse the No. 1 spot on FIRE’s list of worst colleges for free speech in 2011.

Other schools on this year’s list include the University of Cincinnati (No. 1), where the school’s free speech zone makes up just .1 percent of the 137-acre campus, Harvard (No. 4), Yale (No. 5), Johns Hopkins (No. 9) and Bucknell (No. 11).

Schools: Syracuse University Cases: Syracuse University: Education Student Expelled over Facebook Comments