TULSA, Okla., Oct. 31, 2023 — After revising five policies in five months, the University of Tulsa is the latest school, and the first in Oklahoma, to receive a “green light” rating from the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression.
Green light ratings are reserved for schools with no written policies that seriously threaten protected speech. Tulsa is one of only 63 schools in the country that earn this rating.
“The University of Tulsa believes that a campus should be a haven for free speech and a place where people of all beliefs can express their views and debate among one another,” said University of Tulsa president, Brad Carson. “I’m pleased that TU’s commitment to free speech is being recognized by FIRE. At a time when many universities are retreating from their true mission, TU is reaffirming it.”
In June, President Carson personally requested FIRE’s assistance in revising the school’s nondiscrimination and harassment policy. Thanks to his leadership, FIRE aided the university in revising policies governing bulletin boards in residence halls and dining halls, university-sponsored social media accounts, computer use, and harassment.
The new policies now ensure students can engage in expression that is protected by the First Amendment.
Tulsa also created an exemplary freedom of association policy and adopted the “Chicago Statement,” known as the gold standard of institutional policy statements on freedom of expression. Neither were required to earn an overall green light, but these additional steps show the institution’s commitment to actively endorsing free expression.
“President Carson converted his university to a green light in record time — highlighting just how seriously he takes students’ free speech rights,” said FIRE Senior Program Officer Mary Griffin. “FIRE is encouraged to see enthusiastic support for students' expressive rights from high level university leadership. Administrators from around the country should follow President Carson’s lead to actively prioritize freedom of expression by revising their own policies to ensure they align with First Amendment standards.”
Despite being a private school with no legal obligation to uphold the First Amendment on campus, Tulsa is the first university in Oklahoma to achieve the rating. Hopefully it won’t be the last. Last year, the Oklahoma state legislature passed House Bill 3543, a law that formed the Oklahoma Free Speech Committee and charged it with reforming the free speech policies of the state’s public universities.
FIRE supported this law during the legislative process and hopes to see more green lights sweepin’ down the plains.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jack Whitten, Media Relations Specialist, FIRE: 215-717-3473; email@example.com