FIRE names America’s 10 worst colleges for free speech: 2018

By February 12, 2018

PHILADELPHIA, Feb. 12, 2018 — Each year, colleges across the country find dubious ways to silence student and faculty expression. In the last year, administrators became embroiled in litigation for telling a student he couldn’t hand out Spanish-language copies of the U.S. Constitution outside a free speech zone, continued a years-long effort to ban a group from campus due to its political viewpoint, and even investigated a professor for a satirical tweet — eventually driving him to resign.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has identified America’s 10 worst colleges for free speech, published today with detailed descriptions on FIRE’s website.

This year’s list includes the following institutions, in no particular order:

  • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Troy, N.Y.)
  • Drexel University (Philadelphia, Pa.)
  • Harvard University (Cambridge, Mass.)
  • Los Angeles Community College District (Los Angeles, Calif.)
  • Fordham University (New York, N.Y.)
  • Evergreen State College (Olympia, Wash.)
  • Albion College (Albion, Mich.)
  • Northwestern University (Evanston, Ill.)
  • University of California, Berkeley (Berkeley, Calif.)
  • Texas State University (San Marcos, Texas)

The institutions on FIRE’s annual list of worst colleges include one university that threatened the funding and editorial process of its independent student newspaper, another that erected fences around campus to keep peaceful student demonstrators out of sight of donors, and yet another that put a student through a months-long investigation and a four-hour hearing for a joke. (That student is still waiting to learn his fate!)

“College administrators, and sometimes even students, are going to greater and greater lengths to justify muzzling expression on campus,” said FIRE Executive Director Robert Shibley. “This type of censorship makes for a sterile environment where lively debate and discussion can’t thrive. The public deserves to know which colleges will defend free expression — and which ones will go to seemingly any length to silence it.”

For the first time, FIRE also awarded a Lifetime Censorship Award to one university that threatens the free speech rights of its students and faculty so often that it deserves individual infamy: DePaul University.

DePaul earned the 2018 Lifetime Censorship Award in recognition of its decade-long rap sheet of suppressing speech at every turn. From denying recognition to a student organization criticizing marijuana laws, to forcing the DePaul Socialists, Young Americans for Freedom, and College Republicans to pay for security in order to host speakers at their meetings and events, to forbidding a group from using the slogan “Gay Lives Matter,” DePaul has staked out a leadership position in stifling campus expression.

FIRE’s 2018 list 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.

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.

CONTACT:

Daniel Burnett, Communications Manager, FIRE: 215-717-3473; media@thefire.org

Schools: Los Angeles Pierce College Albion College Fordham University Texas State University – San Marcos Harvard University Evergreen State College Drexel University Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Northwestern University DePaul University University of California, Berkeley Cases: Texas State University: Independent Student Newspaper Under Fire for Controversial Opinion Column Albion College: Student Investigated for Hyperbolic Email about Antifa and ISIS Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute: Prohibition on Homecoming Demonstrations Drexel University: Professor Faces Investigation for Controversial Tweets Los Angeles Pierce College – Stand Up For Speech Lawsuit Fordham University: Prospective Students for Justice in Palestine Chapter Rejected Over Political Beliefs Harvard University: Blacklisting of Final Club, Fraternity, and Sorority Students