FIRE Announces America’s 10 Worst Colleges for Free Speech: 2017

February 22, 2017

PHILADELPHIA, Feb. 22, 2017—More than 92 percent of American colleges maintain speech codes that either clearly restrict—or could too easily be used to restrict—free speech. Each year, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) takes a closer look at campus censorship to identify America’s 10 worst colleges for free speech.

The 2017 list of the 10 worst colleges for free speech—published today with detailed descriptions at The Huffington Post—includes both public and private institutions. Public colleges and universities are bound by the First Amendment. Private colleges on this list are not required by the Constitution to respect student and faculty speech rights, but explicitly promise to do so. This year’s list includes:

  • Northern Michigan University
  • California State University, Los Angeles
  • Fordham University
  • University of Oregon
  • California State University, Long Beach
  • Harvard University
  • University of South Carolina
  • Williams College
  • Georgetown University
  • DePaul University

Among the institutions on FIRE’s annual “worst of the worst” list are a prestigious institution whose law school told a group of Bernie Sanders supporters they could not engage in partisan political speech on campus; a public university that threatened students with disciplinary action for discussing their own mental health; and one school that closed the curtain on a scheduled play about diversity because the administration feared it would be too controversial.

“Colleges continue to find excuses for censoring speech on campus,” said FIRE President and CEO Greg Lukianoff. “This list shows that any expression—even expression as innocuous as a chalk message for a political candidate or a discussion of one’s own health—is seen by some colleges as fair game for suppression. This type of censorship is not only unhealthy for institutions where debate and discussion should be paramount, but also dangerous for a free society.”

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to defending liberty, freedom of speech, due process, academic freedom, legal equality, and freedom of conscience on America’s college campuses.

Daniel Burnett, Communications Manager, FIRE: 215-717-3473;

Schools:  Fordham University Georgetown University University of South Carolina Columbia Northern Michigan University California State University – Long Beach Harvard University Williams College California State University – Los Angeles University of Oregon DePaul University

Cases:  Fordham University: Prospective Students for Justice in Palestine Chapter Rejected Over Political Beliefs California State University, Long Beach: Censorship of Play Satirizing Racial Stereotypes DePaul University: DePaul Continues to Impose ‘Speech Tax’ on Student Expression Northern Michigan University: Ban on Students Discussing Self-Harm with Peers Harvard University: Blacklisting of Final Club, Fraternity, and Sorority Students University of South Carolina — Stand Up For Speech Lawsuit Georgetown University Law Center: Students Prevented from Campaigning for Democratic Presidential Candidate Due to Ban on Partisan Political Speech University of Oregon: Student’s Four-Word Joke Results in Five Unconstitutional Disciplinary Charges