As our press release today details, FIRE has released our 2007 report on campus speech codes. The report, Spotlight on Speech Codes 2007: The State of Free Speech on Our Nation’s Campuses, summarizes and analyzes the data we collected over the course of the 2006-2007 academic year for our speech codes database, Spotlight: The Campus Freedom Resource.
In many ways, 2007 was a banner year for free speech on campus. The First Amendment scored two major legal victories on campus, with federal courts in Pennsylvania and California enjoining the enforcement of unconstitutional policies at Temple University and San Francisco State University, respectively. Just days after FIRE alerted the public, the University of Delaware ended a residence life education program that constituted an egregious violation of students’ right to freedom of conscience. And the president of Valdosta State University recently announced his early retirement in the wake of his decision to expel a student from the university for exercising his right to free speech.
The report demonstrates, however, that there is still a tremendous amount of work to be done. This year, FIRE rated a disturbing 75 percent of the 346 schools it surveyed with a “red light,” meaning that those schools have at least one policy that clearly and substantially restricts speech protected by the First Amendment. There are over 3,750,000 students enrolled at red-light institutions—that is simply an unacceptably high number of students living without the right to free speech. The report also highlights several unfortunate trends in censorship on campus. For example, in the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings, FIRE noticed a trend toward universities using otherwise legitimate prohibitions on “threats” to punish constitutionally protected speech. While universities’ desire to prevent violence in light of the Virginia Tech tragedy is more than understandable, it is important that free speech not be sacrificed in the process. But at schools such as Valdosta State University and Hamline University, that is precisely what happened.
We invite you to download the full report and see what else has been happening on campus over the past year.