California Polytechnic State University

Location: San Luis Obispo, California
Type: Public
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Speech Code Rating

California Polytechnic State University has been given the speech code rating Yellow. Yellow light colleges and universities are those institutions with at least one ambiguous policy that too easily encourages administrative abuse and arbitrary application. Read more

Campus Climate

Overall Ranking

out of 203 colleges ranked Read more

FIRE surveyed roughly 44,000 students at 203 colleges and universities about the climate for free speech at their institutions. See the full report on FIRE’s 2022 College Free Speech Rankings for more information.


Overall / out of a top score of 100

Overall Score 39.8

Rankings / out of 203 colleges ranked

Overall Ranking 141
Openness 183
Tolerance (Liberals) 73
Tolerance (Conservatives) 80
Administrative Support 176
Comfort 164
Disruptive Conduct 119

Administrative Behavior

Supported Scholars 0
Sanctioned Scholars 0
Successful Disinvitations 0


Speech Climate BELOW AVERAGE
Speech Code YELLOW
  • Investigating Halloween costumes is ‘an issue of free speech’ — even if universities say otherwise (UPDATED)

    October 30, 2019

    Colleges and universities across the country are once again investigating students for their choice of Halloween costumes or are implementing problematic policies that threaten consequences for choosing an “offensive” costume.  FIRE has tracked the trend of policing Halloween costumes since the mid-2000s. “Halloween hysteria” appears to have died down since its spike in 2015 with… Read more

  • Cal Poly suspends all Greek organizations after controversies at two fraternities

    April 26, 2018

    At California Polytechnic State University, a pair of racial controversies at fraternities have resulted in consequences for everyone in the Greek system, even those uninvolved. On April 8, a photo was circulated among the Cal Poly community depicting a student and member of the fraternity Lambda Chi Alpha with his face painted black, appearing very… Read more

  • Cal Poly Confirms Change in Security Fee Policy After Student Group Alleges Double Standard

    February 10, 2017

    California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) in San Luis Obispo, California will no longer charge student groups security fees for bringing speakers to campus, FIRE has independently confirmed. The news, first reported by the local San Luis Obispo paper, The Tribune, comes several months after Cal Poly says the policy change took effect. The change… Read more

  • Cal Poly Student Government Changes Rules to Allow Some Early Candidate Speech, But Not Enough

    March 17, 2014

    Following widespread criticism, the Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) at California Polytechnic State University has revised its election policies to allow students running for ASI positions to be quoted in the media outside of the “active campaigning period,” which begins just 10 days before elections. Previously, students were prohibited from being identified as candidates in written materials prior to the beginning of the active campaigning period, which began on April 13 this year.

  • Cal Poly and U. of Alabama Students Limited by Election Policies

    March 12, 2014

    Add this to the ever-growing list of sneaky tactics employed to suppress student speech: At California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) and the University of Alabama (UA), student speech about upcoming student government elections may violate election codes at their respective schools.

  • Student Spotlight: Nate Honeycutt, Going for Green at Cal Poly

    February 25, 2014

    The FIRE Student Network’s Student Spotlight recognizes students who are paving the way for free speech on their campuses. This month, FIRE is proud to recognize Nate Honeycutt, the president of the Cal Poly College Republicans at California Polytechnic State University.

  • Speech Code of the Month: University of Richmond

    February 5, 2014

    FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for February 2014: the University of Richmond. The University of Richmond’s Standards of Student Conduct prohibit any “inappropriate behavior or expression,” giving the administration complete discretion to punish virtually any expression it finds inconvenient or unwelcome.

  • Cal Poly Administration Concludes Party Violated No Campus Policies

    December 20, 2013

    Last month, I visited California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) to speak to students and faculty about student rights. When I arrived, I learned of a brewing controversy over a party thrown by a Cal Poly fraternity. The party’s theme, “Colonial Bros and Nava-hos,” and the costumes apparently worn by some of the party-goers garnered criticism from… Read more

  • Cal Poly’s ‘Mustang News’ Criticizes Party and School Response

    November 27, 2013

    The editorial board of the Mustang News, California Polytechnic State University’s (Cal Poly) student newspaper, wrote earlier this week to criticize both the students responsible for organizing the recent “Colonial Bros and Nava-hos” themed party and those calling for the school to punish the party hosts. The board emphasizes that it does not condone offensive party themes like… Read more

  • Randolph-Macon Forgets Its Promises of Free Expression in Responding to Party Theme

    November 22, 2013

    Last weekend, a fraternity at Randolph-Macon College (Va.) hosted a “USA vs. Mexico” theme party. Critics branded it as racist, and the college is now taking action, stating that it is “in the process of holding the individuals and groups involved responsible through our judicial process.” Any forthcoming punishment, though, would run contrary to Randolph-Macon’s broad promises of students’… Read more

  • Cal Poly College Republicans Fight Against the Impact of ‘CLS v. Martinez’

    November 6, 2013

    According to the Mustang Daily, California Polytechnic State University’s (Cal Poly’s) student newspaper, the Cal Poly College Republicans are petitioning against a policy in effect across the California State University (CSU) system that requires student organizations to open membership to all enrolled students. (Fraternities and sororities may remain open only to one sex.) Members of the College Republicans… Read more

  • The State of Free Speech on Campus: Pomona College

    February 25, 2013

    Today, FIRE brings you the next installment in our blog series on the state of free speech at America’s top 10 liberal arts colleges, as ranked by U.S. News & World Report. Up today: Pomona College, one of the five undergraduate colleges that are part of the Claremont Colleges consortium in California. Overall, Pomona College’s speech… Read more

  • FIRE Cases in Cal Poly’s ‘Mustang Daily’

    November 4, 2011

    Student journalist Brendan Pringle wrote about several FIRE cases in Tuesday’s Daily Mustang, the student newspaper of California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly). Pringle wrote about our cases at Bucknell University, Northern Arizona University, Lone Star College-Tomball, and Cal Poly itself, which attempted to punish a student for posting a flyer on a public bulletin board…. Read more

  • Greg’s Speech at Cal Poly a Success

    February 9, 2011

    Greg spoke at California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) on Monday about the nonpartisan nature of the First Amendment, the ridiculousness of speech codes, and the importance of combating offensive speech with more speech. An article by Amanda Sedo in the Mustang Daily, Cal Poly’s student newspaper, demonstrates that students really took Greg’s message to… Read more

  • Student in San Luis Obispo ‘Tribune’ Hopeful for Cal Poly’s Future with Next President

    August 10, 2010

    The Tribune of San Luis Obispo, California, recently published a guest column by Brendan Pringle, a California Polytechnic State University junior and columnist for the Mustang Daily student newspaper. The article remarks on the retirement of long-serving Cal Poly president Warren Baker and looks forward to Cal Poly’s future. Baker’s record on free speech is… Read more

  • Free Speech Questions for the Next Cal Poly President

    May 27, 2010

    After thirty-plus years as President of California Polytechnic State University, Warren J. Baker is retiring. This means that for the first time in a generation, Cal Poly is contemplating who it will trust to take up its mission. Three candidates for the top job reportedly are visiting Cal Poly this week, and columnist Brendan Pringle… Read more

  • Cal Poly Establishes Neutral Ombuds as Successor to CARE-Net, Resolving Yearlong Controversy

    March 22, 2010

    Last spring, FIRE announced a victory for freedom of speech at California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) in San Luis Obispo when Cal Poly suspended an unconstitutional program targeting professors and students whose speech was “biased” or not “politically correct.” The program even planned to let students report complaints anonymously, meaning that those deemed “politically incorrect” might… Read more

  • Cal Poly Student Blogger on Adam Kissel and FIRE

    March 19, 2010

    Cal Poly student Will Taylor has a great blog entry on the site of the Mustang Daily, Cal Poly’s main student newspaper, about FIRE and the director of our Individual Rights Defense Program, Adam Kissel. Taylor writes: What was so impressive about FIRE was that they truly are non-partisan. Kissel said that some of the… Read more

  • ‘Mustang Daily’ Reports on FIRE Speech at Cal Poly

    February 24, 2010

    The Mustang Daily, a student newspaper at California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly), has an excellent article about Adam’s speech there last Wednesday. As I related here before Adam’s speech, Cal Poly has a long and sordid history regarding free speech on campus. Adam discussed Cal Poly’s yellow light speech code rating, making the school better… Read more

  • Cal Poly Suspends Reporting on ‘Politically Incorrect’ Faculty and Students

    June 1, 2009

    SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif., June 1, 2009—California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly), which has already once been on the losing side of a free speech lawsuit, has suspended an unconstitutional program targeting professors and students whose speech is “biased” or not “politically correct.” The program even planned to let students report complaints anonymously, meaning that… Read more

  • Progress at Cal Poly, but Concerns Remain

    May 22, 2009

    Last week, we reported that California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) removed a disturbing bias incident policy from its website shortly after FIRE sent the university a letter criticizing the policy’s infringement on faculty rights to free speech, academic freedom, and due process. The “CARE-Net” initiative encouraged students to report any speech “that is perceived… Read more

  • Rights in the News: A FIRE-Fight Over Facebook

    May 15, 2009

    Before heading home for a weekend of sitting out in the sun, standing in line for Star Trek or, in my case, seeing how much Lost it is possible to cram into a single weekend of house-sitting, here are a couple of worthy articles to chew on. Both, incidentally, involve the social networking site Facebook—and… Read more

  • Blogger Rips Cal Poly’s “CARE-Net”

    May 13, 2009

    Today, Roger Freberg, blogger and husband of Cal Poly professor Laura Freberg, has a post about the situation at Cal Poly, where, as FIRE reported yesterday, the university apparently removed information from its website about a bias incident reporting program called "CARE-Net" after FIRE sent the university a letter objecting to the program’s unconstitutional aspects…. Read more

  • After Letter from FIRE, Troubling Bias Incident Policy Disappears from Cal Poly Website

    May 12, 2009

    Last week, FIRE sent a letter to California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) President Warren Baker about a new bias incident reporting pilot program approved by the university. Several members of Cal Poly’s faculty had contacted FIRE to express their concerns about the initiative, set to become effective this month, which encouraged students to report… Read more

  • Rights in the News: FIRE Issues Get the Lou Dobbs Treatment

    March 13, 2009

    As Will wrote earlier in the week, FIRE has seen far too many instances of students’ First Amendment rights being thrown out the window when used to support Second Amendment rights. FIRE has been all over the news concerning the most recent instance of this, in which a student at Central Connecticut State University (CCSU)… Read more

  • Cal Poly Censors Posters Again

    November 28, 2007

    FIRE supporters may remember the egregious 2002 case of Steve Hinkle, a student at California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) who posted a flyer that was considered to be “of an offensive racial nature” and was then charged with “disrupting” a “campus function” after students confronted him about the poster. The poster simply advertised a… Read more

  • This Month in FIRE History: Victory at Cal Poly

    May 26, 2006

    This month, back in 2004, California Polytechnic State University finally capitulated in its efforts to defend the indefensible: its finding student Steve Hinkle guilty of “disruption” for merely posting a flier with the title of book some students found offensive. Cal Poly should be the poster child for how not to handle a free speech… Read more

  • This Month in FIRE History: Victory at Cal Poly

    May 9, 2005

    May has traditionally been a big month for FIRE (and this month is no exception, as readers will see in the next few days). This time last year we finally resolved the extraordinary Steve Hinkle case: May 6, 2004  FIRE Press Release SAN LUIS OBISPO, CA In a major victory for liberty and equal rights… Read more

  • Major Victory for Free Speech at Cal Poly

    May 6, 2004

    SAN LUIS OBISPO, CA—In a major victory for liberty and equal rights on campus, California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) has settled a free speech lawsuit. The case involved Cal Poly student Steve Hinkle, who was punished for posting a flier on a public bulletin board announcing a College Republicans-sponsored speech by a black social… Read more

  • Speech Codes: Alive and Well at Colleges

    August 1, 2003

    Five years ago, a higher-education editor for The New York Times informed one of us, Harvey Silverglate, that Neil L. Rudenstine — then president of Harvard University — had insisted that Harvard did not have, much less enforce, any “speech codes.” Silverglate suggested the editor dig deeper, because virtually any undergraduate could contest the president’s… Read more