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Oregon State Earns Highest Rating for Free Speech Policies

Oregon State University (OSU) joins an elite group of colleges and universities by becoming just the 17th school in the country to receive FIRE’s highest, “green light,” rating for free speech policies. A college or university earns a green light when its written policies do not seriously imperil free speech. While the clear majority of the nation’s colleges maintain policies that clearly and substantially restrict freedom of speech, OSU is now a proud exception. It is Oregon’s first-ever green light school, and its policy change affects more than 27,000 students.

“FIRE is thrilled to see another major state university eliminate its speech codes,” said Samantha Harris, FIRE’s director of policy research. “More and more universities are finally realizing what courts have been saying for years: Speech codes on public campuses are unconstitutional, and they need to go.”

OSU earned its green light rating by eliminating its only remaining speech code. The code, revised earlier this year, was an overly broad and vague “Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence” policy, which FIRE called on the university to revise last summer.

While there are only 17 green light schools nationwide, OSU is the eighth university in just over the last three years to earn the designation. This positive trend reflects growing awareness of free speech issues on campus as well as increased cooperation between students, university administrators, and FIRE.

Although OSU’s published regulations respect free speech, FIRE remains troubled by the school’s continued defense in court of its decision to remove a conservative student newspaper, The Liberty, from campus. It is our sincere hope that eliminating its last speech code and becoming FIRE’s newest green light school is a signal that OSU is ready to reconsider its handling of the Liberty case and bring its free-speech practices in line with its policies.

Image: Oregon State University campus - Oregon State University website

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