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FIRE names 2019’s worst colleges for free speech

PHILADELPHIA, Feb. 12, 2019 — There’s plenty of innovation happening on college campuses — but some of that innovation comes from campus leaders finding dubious new ways to restrict free speech. Every year, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education compiles a list of the past year’s worst censors. Today, FIRE published its 2019 list, featuring detailed descriptions of each college’s speech-chilling misdeeds.

This year’s list includes campus officials who muzzled student journalists; expelled fraternity members for their private, satirical roast of fellow members; silenced a debate union’s planned religious discussion; cited “eminent domain” to remove peaceful campus leafleters; and bent to elected officials’ demands to censor an American flag art installation.

The 2019 Worst Colleges for Free Speech are, in alphabetical order:

  • Alabama A&M University
  • Dixie State University
  • Georgetown University Qatar
  • Liberty University
  • Plymouth State University
  • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
  • Syracuse University
  • University of Kansas
  • University of North Alabama
  • University of Wisconsin System

“All of these colleges claim to — or are required to — respect student and faculty free speech rights, but not a single one delivers,” said FIRE Executive Director Robert Shibley.  

FIRE’s list includes both public and private institutions. Public colleges and universities are bound by the First Amendment. Private colleges on this list are not required by the Constitution to respect student and faculty speech rights, but (like most private colleges across the country) their policies or leadership explicitly promise to do so.

“Someone who tells you that you are too weak to live with free speech is not your friend,” Shibley said. “College students are adults, and they don’t need administrators to shield them from speech the college deems objectionable — or that its authorities simply don’t like.”

The 2019 edition marks FIRE’s eighth year compiling the “worst-of-the-worst” list. Previous lists can be found on FIRE’s website.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to defending and sustaining the individual rights of students and faculty members at America’s colleges and universities. These rights include freedom of speech, freedom of association, due process, legal equality, religious liberty, and sanctity of conscience — the essential qualities of liberty.


Daniel Burnett, Communications Manager, FIRE: 215-717-3473;

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