Freedom of speech is a fundamental American freedom and a human right, and there’s no place that this right should be more valued and protected than America’s colleges and universities. A university exists to educate students and advance the frontiers of human knowledge, and does so by acting as a “marketplace of ideas” where ideas compete. The intellectual vitality of a university depends on this competition—something that cannot happen properly when students or faculty members fear punishment for expressing views that might be unpopular with the public at large or disfavored by university administrators.
Despite universities’ legal and moral obligations to protect freedom of expression, free speech is under continuous threat at many of America’s campuses, pushed aside in favor of politics, comfort, or simply a desire to avoid controversy. As a result, speech codes dictating what may or may not be said, “free speech zones” confining expression to tiny areas of campus, and case after case of administrative attempts to punish or repress speech are common today in academia. Given its fundamental importance in higher education and society at large, FIRE works tirelessly to make sure the right to speak freely is a right all students enjoy.