Only one state’s top colleges all earned FIRE’s highest free speech rating. Mississippi just became the second.

December 2, 2019
  • Jackson State becomes 6th Mississippi college to earn FIRE’s top rating for free speech
  • University removes ban on any showing of X-rated movies, among other changes

JACKSON, Miss., Dec. 2, 2019 — Jackson State University eliminated or revised all of its speech policies that conflict with the First Amendment, becoming the sixth institution in Mississippi to earn the highest, “green light” rating from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. Mississippi is now the second state, after Arizona, to have all of its top universities earn a green light rating from FIRE. Mississippi is also home to more green light schools than any other state except North Carolina. 

Only 51 other colleges and universities around the country earn an overall green light rating in FIRE’s Spotlight database. FIRE rates more than 470 institutions nationwide to determine whether their policies restrict speech that is protected by the Constitution. Almost 90% of colleges maintain policies that restrict and chill protected expression.

“Jackson State has been a tremendous partner in our shared vision that universities should be places where free speech is not only permitted, but actively encouraged,” said FIRE Vice President of Policy Reform Azhar Majeed. “The desire among institutions in Mississippi to promote free speech is a win for students in the Magnolia State and an example for college leaders around the country.”

SEE HOW MUCH FREE SPEECH YOUR ALMA MATER RESTRICTS

Jackson State started working with FIRE in 2016 to revise its policies. Changes included eliminating bans on profanity, updating a student decorum policy prohibiting certain language on clothing, and removing a ban on showing X-rated movies. 

“The university embraces the rights of our students and faculty to express their thoughts and ideas freely,” said Jackson State President Dr. William B. Bynum, Jr. “Our free speech policies are, now, in alignment to show how much we value this right.”

Students at the five other Mississippi institutions rated by FIRE also enjoy the highest rating: Alcorn State University, Delta State University, Mississippi State University, the University of Mississippi, and the University of Southern Mississippi. Three of the universities earned green light ratings earlier this year.

The green light distinction is currently held by only 52 institutions across the country, which have a combined student enrollment of over 1 million

Jackson State is the fourth historically black college — along with Mississippi’s Alcorn State, North Carolina Central University, and Fayetteville State University — to earn the rating.

Public universities like Jackson State are legally bound by the First Amendment, while private institutions are bound by promises of free speech found in their official policies.

To learn more about the state of free speech on college campuses around the country, see FIRE’s “Spotlight on Speech Codes 2019” report.

WANT TO SEE YOUR STATE ADDED TO THE LIST? CLICK ‘TAKE ACTION’ ON ANY SCHOOL’S SPOTLIGHT PAGE TO DEMAND REFORM

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.

CONTACT:

Daniel Burnett, Assistant Director of Communications, FIRE: 215-717-3473; media@thefire.org

Maxine Greenleaf, Executive Director, University  of Communications and Marketing, Jackson State University: 601-979-1328; maxine.r.greenleaf@jsums.edu 


Schools:  Jackson State University