Two weeks ago, The Huffington Post ran Greg’s article commending the seven best colleges and universities for free speech in the country. On Sunday, Katherine Torres and the editorial board of The State Press, Arizona State University’s (ASU’s) student newspaper, were just the latest to comment on the article, and more specifically to note ASU’s inclusion in the list.
Both items explained how ASU recently earned its "green light" status in FIRE’s Spotlight database of speech codes, and both included some excellent quotes about the importance of free speech at a university. Joseph Russomanno, an ASU professor who teaches a course based on the First Amendment, was quoted by Torres, explaining a central purpose of a university:
There is a school of thought – one that I adhere to – that colleges and universities should be leaders in the realm of freedom of expression.
Fortunately, most universities at least give lip service to this school of thought, and we heartily agree.
Meanwhile, the editorial board applauded ASU’s tolerance of all kinds of speech, noting how ASU’s defense of a wide range of ideas and viewpoints contributes toward diversity on a campus of 60,000 students:
Even a passerby in front of the Memorial Union has the chance to debate religious acceptance and the possibilities of Heaven and Hell or sing in the Danforth Chapel. This is ASU in 2011, and it’s the ASU we want. The rising debate shows ASU’s diverse range of cultures ….
Hopefully "green light" institutions like ASU will someday become typical among American universities. However, in order for such a transformation to occur, people need to be aware of their individual rights and must fight to maintain them. As Russomanno put it, "[t]he burden is not merely on the shoulders of officials, but on those of all of us."