‘Arizona Republic’ Fact-Check: FIRE’s Stats Stand Up to Scrutiny

August 26, 2015

Last week, The Arizona Republic fact-checked Congressman Trent Franks’ recent statement that more than half of colleges and universities maintain unconstitutional speech codes.

Franks cited FIRE’s Spotlight on Speech Codes 2015 report in a statement posted on his website in June:

According to a 2015 report published by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, 55% of the 437 colleges and universities they examined “maintain policies that seriously infringe upon the free speech rights of students.

FIRE’s Spotlight database rates colleges and universities according to their campus speech policies. “Green light” institutions maintain policies that do not seriously imperil speech, while “red light” schools have at least one policy on the books that clearly and substantially restricts student speech.

To determine the veracity of Franks’ statement, The Arizona Republic took a hard look at FIRE’s analysis—and found it air-tight. The Republic’s Travis Arbon wrote:

BOTTOM LINE: Franks’ statement that 55 percent of the universities examined in the study were given a red-light rating, indicating that they have policies that “seriously infringe upon the free speech rights of students,” is true.

The number of such schools is on the decline, according to the report, but still represents a large collection of colleges and universities. However, the individual policies that universities use vary. Not all red-light policies are red for the same reasons. Some may be more or less restrictive than others or restrict different kinds of speech in different ways.

THE FINDING: Four stars: true

We’re proud of our Spotlight database, which is annually updated by FIRE attorneys. We thank Congressman Franks for bringing attention to our research and The Arizona Republic for taking a close look at our work.

You can read FIRE’s Spotlight on Speech Codes 2015 report on our website.