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‘2016 Jefferson Muzzle Awards’ Go to Unprecedented 50 Colleges, Reflecting Anti-Speech ‘Epidemic’

Citing an “epidemic of anti-speech activity” in higher education, the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression announced today it has awarded an unprecedented 50 of its distinctly dishonorable “Jefferson Muzzle Awards” for 2016—and all to colleges and universities.

Since 1992, the Virginia-based nonprofit devoted to defending free speech has given the mock prize to a handful of individuals and institutions making the most egregious recent efforts to censor speech. But this year, the Thomas Jefferson Center said alarm over dire threats to once-sacrosanct values of free speech and academic freedom on college campuses necessitated a change:

Our usual practice has been to select eight to twelve recipients each year, reflecting the unfortunate reality that threats to free expression regularly occur at all levels of government. This year, however, we were compelled to take a different approach. Never in our 25 years of awarding the Jefferson Muzzles have we observed such an alarming concentration of anti-speech activity as we saw last year on college campuses across the country. We are therefore awarding Jefferson Muzzles to the 50 colleges and universities discussed below, both as an admonishment for the acts already done and a reminder that it is not too late to change course.

The center’s decision mirrors FIRE’s concerns. In a recent interview, FIRE President and CEO Greg Lukianoff called the past year “one of the worst years for campus free speech that I’ve seen in my entire career.”

This year’s Muzzle recipients were divided into five categories based on the type of censorship represented: censorship of students, censorship by students, efforts to limit press access on campus, threats to academic freedom, and silencing of outside speakers. Notably, FIRE has been involved in cases at most of the colleges and universities represented. We’ve linked our coverage of these cases where applicable. For schools listed in the “Censorship of Outside Speakers” category, you can learn more at FIRE’s comprehensive Disinvitation Database.

Here is the complete list of 2016 Jefferson Muzzle awards by category:

Censorship of Students

Censorship by Students

Limiting Press Access on Campus

Threats to Academic Freedom

Censorship of Outside Speakers

  • Southern Illinois University at Carbondale
  • University of North Texas
  • Kean University
  • Le Moyne College
  • St. John Fisher College
  • Williams College
  • University of California, Berkeley
  • American Baptist College
  • Saint Louis University
  • Duke University
  • Texas Tech University
  • Oberlin College
  • Pennsylvania State University
  • Harvard University
  • University of California, Los Angeles
  • Alma College
  • University of Southern California
  • Princeton University
  • University of Minnesota

On a positive note, the Thomas Jefferson Center also recognized the colleges and universities that have answered FIRE’s call to adopt the principles of the University of Chicago statement on free speech.

FIRE applauds the Thomas Jefferson Center for focusing the Jefferson Muzzles on the anti-speech problem on college campuses.

For more on the Muzzles, check out the Thomas Jefferson Center’s full write-up.

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