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FIRE’s Azhar Majeed on ‘What Universities Can Do for Free Speech in 2015’

By January 14, 2015

In 2014, many colleges and universities took significant steps toward protecting students’ and professors’ freedom of speech. FIRE was happy to newly bestow our highest, “green light” rating upon the University of Florida, Georgetown College in Kentucky, and Plymouth State University in New Hampshire, and we saw several other colleges revise their worst speech codes in order to better protect open debate on campus. Azhar Majeed, Director of FIRE’s Individual Rights Education Program, takes to Minding the Campus this week to urge colleges and universities across the nation to follow these institutions’ lead.

FIRE is always willing to help schools that are ready to work with us to ensure their policies don’t restrict constitutionally protected expression. In his article, Azhar reminds readers of some longstanding resources, and he reports on our newer initiatives, too:

We have already received encouraging responses to a national certified mailing we sent to over 300 public colleges and universities on Constitution Day, September 17, 2014. As a result, we are  working with dozens of colleges and universities toward eliminating their most speech-restrictive policies. Additionally, resources such as our Correcting Common Mistakes in Campus Speech Policies guide and Spotlight database for campus speech codes are always available to any university administrators, students, and faculty members who are interested in pursuing policy reform.

As Azhar also points out, if colleges would prefer to do things the hard way, they can look forward to revising their codes pursuant to a court order. FIRE’s Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project has already seen successes for student rights—to the tune of $210,000 in fees and damages, as well as policy changes affecting approximately 185,000 students. Public universities especially should take note: Taking action for free speech would also be taking action for themselves.

Read the rest of Azhar’s article over at Minding the Campus.

Cases: FIRE’s Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project