Chicago State, U of I Make List of Worst Colleges for Free Speech

March 3, 2015

By NBCChicago at

Two Illinois universities made the top 10 list of the worst schools for free speech for allegedly violating First Amendment rights in 2014.

Chicago State University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign made the fourth annual list, which is published by the non-profit watchdog group Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).

This year’s list included both public and private colleges and universities as well as the Kansas Board of Regents and the U.S. Department of Education.

Chicago State University earned a top spot after the administration allegedly attempted to censor the university’s blog “CSU Faculty Voice,” which criticized the school’s administration. Two professors then sued the university for the alleged censorship, and the case was taken up by FIRE’s “Stand Up For Free Speech Litigation Project.”

Two students also sued the university last year for allegedly shutting down the independent student newspaper, kicking them off student government and expelling one of them. The students claim the university took these actions because they had attempted to expose corruption in the administration.

The University of Illinois earned its spot on the list after the controversy surrounding a newly hired professor whose passionate anti-Israel tweets lost him the job before he even started. Steven Salaita accepted an offer to teach in the Native American Studies department in October 2013 and was due to start the job in August 2014. He was fired before classes began, however, after he posted several anti-Israel tweets over the summer that critics deemed anti-Semitic.

Salaita filed a lawsuit against the university’s board of trustees and key administrators in January in the hopes of getting the job back.

“Our colleges and universities are supposed to be where students go to debate and explore new ideas,” FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said in a statement. “But too often on the modern college campus, students and their professors find their voices silenced by administrators who would rather they be absent from the often contentious marketplace of ideas.”

Another Chicago school, DePaul University, made the list last year after a member of the university’s chapter of Young Americans for Freedom was punished for publishing the names of students who vandalized his group’s pro-life display.

DePaul also made the inaugural list in 2011 because the university denied recognition to the student group “Students for Cannabis Policy Reform.”

This year’s list, which did not rank the schools within the top 10, includes Brandeis University, California State University at Fullerton, Georgetown University, University of Iowa, Marquette University and Modesto Junior College.

Schools: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Chicago State University Cases: Chicago State University – Stand Up For Speech Lawsuit University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: Professor Punished for Teaching about Catholic Thought in Course about Catholic Thought