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Best in class: DePauw becomes first private Indiana school to earn 'green light' free speech rating

After being ranked last in FIRE’s Free Speech Rankings only two years ago, DePauw made impressive steps to improve climate for free speech.

DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana.

GREENCASTLE, IN., May 05, 2023 – After revising six policies, DePauw University has earned the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression’s “green light” rating, the highest possible rating for policies that regulate student speech on campus.

DePauw’s new rating represents one of the most successful turnarounds in the history of FIRE’s “Spotlight” rating system. Only a few years ago, DePauw was a “red light” school and came in last in FIRE’s 2021 College Free Speech Rankings.

“For more than a year and half, FIRE and DePauw have worked together to revamp their policies to ensure students can freely engage in expression on campus and add their voices to the conversation,” said FIRE Senior Program Officer Mary Griffin. “DePauw should be commended for its commitment to free and open inquiry. We hope more colleges will follow its lead.” 

An overall green light rating is reserved for schools with no policies that seriously restrict or chill speech, and it places DePauw in an elite class. FIRE’s most recent “Spotlight on Speech Codes” report found that of the 486 schools included in the Spotlight database, only 60, or 12%, earned a green light rating. The new rating also marks DePauw as one of the best schools in the state of Indiana for free speech. 

Spotlight on Speech Codes

Spotlight on Speech Codes


FIRE surveys speech codes at America’s top colleges and universities, providing readers with key data on individual schools and national trends.

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DePauw earned its new rating after working with FIRE to update its policies on harassment, bias, campus posting, prohibited student conduct, and electronic communications, removing vague or unclear language that left students open to punishment over expression that would be protected by the private school’s strong free speech promises.

In 2022, DePauw also adopted the “Statement of DePauw University Values on Freedom of Expression,” which articulates that “all members of the DePauw community have a duty to support free expression at the university, to refrain from actions that reduce intellectual exchange and to guarantee the rights of others to question, defend, and express a wide variety of beliefs and ideas.” The statement is modeled on the “Chicago Statement,” the gold standard for institutional policy statements on freedom of expression that has been endorsed by nearly 100 institutions nationwide.

“At a time when our neighborhoods, social circles, and information channels are increasingly segregated, the pursuit of conversation across differences has never been more important,” said DePauw University President Lori S. White. “College campuses, particularly those that are residential, are one of the few places where people are invited to live, learn, work, and develop community together across a range of differences. Liberal arts colleges are communities actively grappling with the interconnectedness of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging and free expression.

“By leaning into and openly discussing through teaching, scholarship and campus conversation the complexities of our histories, identities, and ideologies we fortify our mission to educate leaders the world needs. We are appreciative of FIRE's recognition of DePauw’s continued work on free expression.”

The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to defending and sustaining the individual rights of all Americans to free speech and free thought — the most essential qualities of liberty. FIRE educates Americans about the importance of these inalienable rights, promotes a culture of respect for these rights, and provides the means to preserve them.

FIRE regularly works with colleges and universities — free of charge — to revise their policies to ensure they meet First Amendment standards. Contact FIRE’s campus Policy Reform team today at


Alex Griswold, Communications Campaign Manager, FIRE: 215-717-3473;

Bob Weaver, Senior Director of Communications, DePauw University: 765-658-4286;

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