PHILADELPHIA, December 13, 2014—The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) released its 2015 report and interactive infographic on campus speech codes across America today. FIRE’s findings show that more than half of the 437 schools analyzed maintain policies severely restricting students’ right to free speech.
“Most universities continue to enforce speech codes that don’t satisfy First Amendment standards,” said FIRE President Greg Lukianoff. “For the seventh consecutive year, however, the percentage of speech codes has dropped, and we’re happy to see that. But the federal government’s efforts to address sexual harassment on campus are leading a number of universities to adopt flatly unconstitutional speech policies.” Lukianoff added, “The greatest threat to free speech on campus may now be the federal government.”
Major findings from Spotlight on Speech Codes 2015: The State of Free Speech on Our Nation’s Campuses include:
- 55.2 percent of the 437 schools surveyed still have “red light” speech codes, which clearly and substantially restrict protected speech.
- The University of Florida, Oregon State University, and Plymouth State University eliminated all of their speech codes this year, earning FIRE’s highest rating, a “green light.”
- The percentage of red light schools has declined by 20 points from seven years ago, while the percentage of green light schools has doubled.
- However, under pressure from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, a number of universities, including Penn State and the University of Connecticut, have newly adopted unconstitutional speech codes under the guise of harassment policies. Absent explicit clarification from the Department of Education, FIRE expects this unfortunate trend to continue.
Spotlight on Speech Codes 2015 reports on policies at more than 400 of America’s largest and most prestigious colleges and universities, all of which are accessible online in FIRE’s searchable Spotlight database.
“The continued decline in speech codes is excellent news,” said Samantha Harris, FIRE’s Director of Policy Research. “But supporters of free speech need to confront the threat from the federal government head-on and work to make sure colleges understand that no government regulation can trump the First Amendment.”
FIRE, the nation’s leading student rights organization, 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.
Katie Barrows, Communications Coordinator, FIRE: 215-717-3473 x403; firstname.lastname@example.org