WASHINGTON, April 21, 2015—George Mason University (GMU) has eliminated all of its speech codes, earning the highest, “green light” rating from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). After working with FIRE to ensure its policies comply with the First Amendment, the Virginia university has joined a select group of colleges and universities nationwide to earn FIRE’s most favorable rating for free speech on campus.
“We commend George Mason University for improving its policies and fully upholding the First Amendment rights of its students and faculty members,” said Azhar Majeed, Director of FIRE’s Individual Rights Education Program. “GMU is now a national leader in terms of respecting free speech in higher education, and the university’s actions should serve as a positive example for other institutions to follow.”
FIRE has been advocating for speech code reform at GMU for nearly a decade. In May 2014, Majeed and GMU Director of Special Diversity Projects Dennis Webster began working together to revise seven university policies, including a flyer posting policy, a sexual harassment policy, two provisions from the student conduct code, and a policy on leafleting. GMU Foundation Professor of Law Todd Zywicki also assisted in the effort.
“Freedom of speech and academic freedom are core values of a university’s mission,” said Zywicki. “I’m delighted that George Mason has joined the ranks of universities that have committed themselves to the full protection of free speech. Thank you to our administration for their dedicated work in providing a context where students and faculty can express controversial ideas freely, and even inartfully, without fear of reprisal.”
“It’s been a long process, but FIRE is always happy to work directly with university administrations on speech code reform,” said FIRE President and CEO Greg Lukianoff, who also presently co-teaches a First Amendment law class at GMU School of Law. “Special thanks to Professor Zywicki, as well, for helping persuade the university to fix its codes. We are thrilled to have George Mason join the green light ranks.”
GMU becomes the 20th green light institution in FIRE’s Spotlight database of over 400 colleges and universities, and the 11th institution in just over five years to improve to an overall green light rating. This positive trend reflects growing awareness of free speech issues on campus, as well as increased cooperation between students, administrators, and FIRE.
FIRE is a nonprofit educational foundation that unites civil rights and civil liberties leaders, scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals from across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of individual rights, freedom of expression, academic freedom, due process, and rights of conscience at our nation’s colleges and universities. FIRE’s efforts to preserve liberty on campuses across America can be viewed at thefire.org.
Nico Perrino, Associate Director of Communications, FIRE: 215-717-3473; firstname.lastname@example.org