PHILADELPHIA, September 5, 2012—With students heading back to campus and high school seniors beginning their college applications, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is pleased to announce its 2012 list of the nation's best colleges and universities for freedom of speech today on The Huffington Post.
FIRE commends James Madison University, The College of William & Mary, the University of Mississippi, Mississippi State University, the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, the University of Virginia, and the University of Pennsylvania for protecting free speech on campus and maintaining policies that honor freedom of expression.
"It's easy for students to get caught up in the frenzy of trying to get into the best-ranked schools," said FIRE President Greg Lukianoff. "But if the college you attend doesn't respect free speech, your education will suffer regardless of how high the college is ranked."
In determining the seven best colleges and universities for freedom of speech for the second annual list, FIRE considered whether an institution's policies restrict speech protected by the First Amendment and whether the school had censored speech in recent years. Each of the seven institutions chosen has earned a "green light" rating in FIRE's Spotlight database of university policies. FIRE awards a college or university a green light rating if it does not maintain any policies that seriously imperil speech on campus. Only 16 schools out of the nearly 400 FIRE rates have earned green light ratings.
FIRE is proud to welcome new institutions to this year's list. James Madison University, the University of Mississippi, and Mississippi State University each earned the honor following successful revisions to policies that had restricted student expression. The College of William & Mary, the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, the University of Virginia, and the University of Pennsylvania each enjoy their second straight year as a "best school" for maintaining their strong commitments to freedom of expression, both in their written policies and in their daily practice.
FIRE invites Huffington Post readers to nominate their own candidates after reading FIRE's list, and urges them to report any serious free speech violations that they might know about at any of the seven schools named.
FIRE's list of the seven best institutions for free expression follows FIRE's second annual list of the 12 worst colleges for free speech, published in late March. Among the schools awarded that dubious distinction was the University of Cincinnati, which unsurprisingly suffered a stinging defeat in federal court this summer when its tiny "free speech zone" was struck down on First Amendment grounds in litigation coordinated in part by FIRE.
As a new academic year begins this fall, students, faculty, parents, and alumni are encouraged to take advantage of FIRE's wealth of resources for defending rights on campus. This past July, FIRE published a newly updated Guide to Free Speech on Campus, available to students and faculty free of charge. With election season upon us, student groups should review our Policy Statement on Political Activity on Campus, updated for 2012. Capping an exciting fall, Lukianoff's forthcoming book, Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate, will be published on October 23.
FIRE is a nonprofit educational foundation that unites civil rights and civil liberties leaders, scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals from across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of individual rights, due process, freedom of expression, academic freedom, and rights of conscience at our nation's colleges and universities. FIRE's efforts to preserve liberty on campuses across America are described at thefire.org.
Greg Lukianoff, President, FIRE: 215-717-3473; firstname.lastname@example.org