FIRE in The Washington Times: What students, administrators should know about free speech on campus

October 26, 2017

While millions of college students across the U.S. are hunkering down for midterms amid continuing controversies over the limits of free speech on campus, FIRE continues to work to ensure students know their rights and administrators know their responsibilities in protecting those rights.

Yesterday, FIRE legal fellows Zach Greenberg and Adam Goldstein authored articles in The Washington Times outlining what students and administrators need to know about the most common kinds of university speech codes, and how administrators should handle controversial campus speakers.

In his piece, “Welcome to campus! Here’s your speech code,” Zach reviews the three most common kinds of speech codes students encounter when trying to speak their minds on campus:

We’ve been tracking campus speech codes for over a decade. As a result, we’ve seen our fair share of ridiculous restrictions on student expression — from “inappropriately directed laughter” to “harsh text messages or emails.” But some speech codes are more common than others, and it would behoove students, especially those seeking to protest on campus, to familiarize themselves with these policies as they engage in activism this semester.

Check out Zach’s top three problematic speech code categories over at The Washington Times’ website.

Adam’s piece, “Five things your campus administrators should know about speakers and protests,” is a must-read for every college administrator on what is arguably the hot-button issue this fall semester. Adam provides “five lessons that can help campus administrators make decisions when faced with a controversial event,” including tips on ensuring student safety, understanding security fees for outside speakers, and how good policies (which FIRE can help write, by the way) can prevent headaches and PR disasters down the road.

“Remember,” Adam writes, “tranquility is not the natural state of education. Students are constantly being confronted with new ideas while bringing their own to the table. Sometimes, that clash takes place with signs and chants. It is not meant to be comfortable; it is only meant to be preferable to the alternatives, none of which look like democracy.”

You can — and should — read the rest of Adam’s piece here.

To learn more about rights and resources for students, faculty, and administrators, feel free to explore our website. If you are a current college student or faculty member interested in free speech, consider joining the FIRE Student Network, a coalition of students and faculty members dedicated to advancing individual liberties on their campuses.

As always, FIRE stands ready to help members of campus communities nationwide in our mission to defend and sustain individual rights at America’s colleges and universities. For more information, contact us today at