Florida State dumps unconstitutional speech restrictions, earns highest free speech rating from FIRE

April 9, 2020
  • FIRE’s top rating is held by only two other institutions in Florida, and just 54 nationwide.
  • Florida State: “…we believe that the ability to freely engage in the exchange of ideas is an integral part of a thriving campus community.”

TALLAHASSEE, Fla., April 9, 2020 — Florida State University revised its policies on free expression to earn the top free speech rating from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. 

FIRE, a national campus free speech organization, rates more than 470 institutions nationwide to determine whether their policies restrict student speech that is protected by the First Amendment. Almost 90% of colleges maintain policies that restrict or chill protected expression.

The top, “green light” rating is held by only two other institutions in Florida, and just 54 nationwide.

SEE HOW MUCH FREE SPEECH OTHER FLORIDA INSTITUTIONS RESTRICT

“Universities that earn the highest rating have proven themselves to be national leaders when it comes to free speech on campus,” said Mary Zoeller, FIRE policy reform senior program officer. “Florida State’s active efforts to earn this designation mean it takes its commitments to free expression seriously. Unlike most institutions in Florida and around the country, Florida State’s policies do not restrict constitutionally protected speech.”

Florida State earned FIRE’s green light rating after revising five policies, including a directive on bias response and an electronic mail policy barring subjectively “irrelevant” or “inappropriate” emails.

“Florida State University values every individual’s right to free speech and expression, and we believe that the ability to freely engage in the exchange of ideas is an integral part of a thriving campus community,” said Amy Hecht, vice president for student affairs. “Over the past year, FSU has diligently worked to revise its policies to better reflect the university’s commitment to open discussion, academic freedom and respect for differing opinions.”

The University of Florida and the University of North Florida previously earned the green light rating. The University of South Florida and the University of Central Florida each earn FIRE’s “yellow light” rating, which denotes policies that, by virtue of their vague wording, could too easily be used to restrict protected expression. The University of Miami earns FIRE’s worst, “red light” rating, meaning the university maintains policies that clearly and substantially restrict protected speech. 

On Florida State’s campus in April 2019, Gov. Ron DeSantis called on the state’s public colleges and universities to adopt a popular resolution protecting student free speech, commonly known as the “Chicago Statement.” Florida State is among 12 schools nationally that both earn a green light rating and have adopted a version of the Chicago Statement.

Public universities like Florida State are legally bound by the First Amendment to protect student free speech rights, while private institutions are bound by promises of free speech found in their official policies.

To learn more about the state of free speech on college campuses around the country, see FIRE’s “Spotlight on Speech Codes 2020” report.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to defending and sustaining the individual rights of students and faculty members at America’s colleges and universities. These rights include freedom of speech, freedom of association, due process, legal equality, religious liberty, and sanctity of conscience — the essential qualities of liberty.

CONTACT:

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

Amy Farnum-Patronis, Assistant Director, News and Research Communications, Florida State University: 850-645-1294; afarnumpatronis@fsu.edu


Schools:  Florida State University