Virginia’s colleges and universities have not always won laurels for their devotion to the cause of free speech. Indeed, in recent years some of them — such as George Mason and Virginia Tech — have come in for deserved criticism on that front.
So it was encouraging to see two of the state’s leading institutions, UVa and William and Mary, listed among the seven best schools in the country for free speech. Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), presented the list in a recent article on The Huffington Post. FIRE’s advocacy is often effective, and always nonpartisan — it condemns all attacks on intellectual freedom regardless of political or ideological slant.
And it keeps busy. Only 14 of the 400 colleges and universities FIRE monitors have earned its green-light designation, meaning they impose no policies that endanger free speech on campus. The rest, alas, do.
UVa was founded, of course, by Thomas Jefferson, who said of it that "this institution will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind. For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it." It is good to know that spirit, so regrettably lacking elsewhere, remains vibrant in much of the commonwealth.