Rights in the News: New Year, (Most of the) Same Speech Codes

December 11, 2009

As suggested by the title of Greg’s most recent Huffington Post column, “The Good and the Bad News about Campus Speech Codes,” FIRE’s newly released report, Spotlight on Speech Codes 2010: The State of Free Speech on Our Nation’s Campuses, points to some positive developments over the past year. Chief among them: for a second straight year, the percentage of American universities maintaining speech codes that systematically violate their students’ free speech rights has fallen. The bad news, of course, is that despite this positive trend, 71% of the colleges surveyed in our 2010 report still maintain such policies.

The report’s release has caught the attention of the college community. Newspapers at Northern Kentucky University (which yet again receives a “red light” from FIRE) and Penn State University (which has been upgraded to a “yellow light”) are among the first papers to report on their schools’ ratings in the report. At Quinnipiac University, The Quinnipiac Chronicle takes note of the university’s red-light status and highlights a recent visit by FIRE’s Will Creeley.

And California State Senator Leland Yee has seized on the 2010 report as an opportunity to highlight the troubles in his own state university systems, pointing out that “nearly 70 percent of our public universities are violating state law or the US Constitution through policies restricting free expression.” Yee, a staunch advocate for student rights, showcases Southwestern College, with its now-notorious “free speech patio,” as among California’s worst offenders. (Torch readers familiar with the free speech crisis at SWC will surely agree.)

Meanwhile, as Robert noted earlier in the week, an already widely reported controversy surrounding the proposed redesign of the teacher education curriculum at the University of Minnesota was accelerated by a feature article at FOXNews.com. Be sure to read the full article and the rest of FIRE’s coverage on this threat to freedom of conscience at the University of Minnesota. As always, we’ll keep you posted.