University of Kentucky

Location: Lexington, Kentucky
Type: Public
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Speech Code Rating

University of Kentucky 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 154 colleges surveyed Read more

FIRE surveyed roughly 37,000 students at 154 colleges and universities about the climate for free speech at their institutions. In 2021, FIRE released rankings of those schools, based on a number of factors, including openness, tolerance, self-expression, administrative support for free speech, and campus policies, scoring overall speech climate on a scale from 0-100. See the full report on FIRE’s 2021 College Free Speech Rankings for more information.


Rankings / out of 154 colleges surveyed

Overall Ranking 96
Ideological Diversity 39

Overall / out of a top score of 100

Overall Score 58.93
Openness 9.6
Tolerance (Liberals) 9.17
Tolerance (Conservatives) 7.67
Administrative Support 6.21
Comfort 16.35
Disruptive Conduct 9.93
Speech Code YELLOW
At present, FIRE has not been publicly involved in any cases at this school.
  • Student press gets big win as Kentucky Supreme Court sides with student newspaper

    April 5, 2021

    The Supreme Court of Kentucky has ruled that the University of Kentucky acted improperly when it prevented student newspaper The Kentucky Kernel from accessing records about a Title IX investigation that implicated a professor. The March 25 ruling marks a huge victory in a tale that, at this point, feels about as old as time… Read more

  • Appeals court requires U. of Kentucky to submit redacted records

    May 21, 2019

    The University of Kentucky will have to provide redacted records of a Title IX investigation — and specific justifications for those redactions — to a state circuit court for review, after a ruling Friday by the Kentucky Court of Appeals. That amounts to a win for UK’s student newspaper, the Kentucky Kernel, which has been… Read more

  • Professor settles First Amendment lawsuit with University of Kentucky, UK to pay $620,000

    December 18, 2018

    In August 2017, Dr. Raynor Mullins, a faculty member at the University of Kentucky College of Dentistry, filed suit against UK alleging that the university violated his First Amendment rights by retaliating against him after he criticized Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin’s proposed Medicaid plan. Earlier this month, Mullins and UK settled the lawsuit for $620,000…. Read more

  • Speech Code of the Month: University of Kentucky

    May 22, 2018

    FIRE announces our Speech Code of the Month for May 2018: the University of Kentucky. The University of Kentucky’s Bias Incident Response Team threatens to seriously chill freedom of speech for the university’s more than 30,000 students and faculty. Bias response teams like Kentucky’s are burgeoning on campuses around the country. As FIRE exclusively reported… Read more

  • Judge Gets It Wrong in Kentucky Records Ruling

    January 25, 2017

    The University of Kentucky (UK) can withhold records related to the sexual assault claims made against a former professor under student privacy law, a judge ruled Monday—but the judge’s ruling doesn’t make sense under the law it cites. The records in question relate to university investigations of former Associate Professor of Entomology James Harwood, who… Read more

  • Federal Court: Campus Sexual Assault Hearings are ‘Quasi-Criminal’ in Nature

    January 20, 2016

    Earlier this week, a federal court dismissed a student’s lawsuit against University of Kentucky administrators under a doctrine requiring that federal courts defer to state proceedings under certain circumstances. The court’s decision turned on its conclusion that the student’s sexual misconduct hearing at the University of Kentucky was an official “state proceeding … akin to… Read more

  • University of Kentucky Offers Students First Amendment Violations in Two Flavors

    January 21, 2015

    The University of Kentucky (UK) has apparently failed to notice that universities are increasingly being forced to get rid of their ironically named “free speech zones,” whether by state legislation or costly lawsuits. UK currently maintains two “Designated Unrestricted Areas,” which constitute the small fraction of the campus where a reservation is not required for… Read more

  • FIRE’s Will Creeley Heads to Kentucky to Speak at UK, EKU

    April 1, 2013

    Tomorrow, FIRE’s Director of Legal and Public Advocacy Will Creeley heads to the Bluegrass State to discuss student rights at the University of Kentucky (UK) and Eastern Kentucky University (EKU). At both schools, Creeley will examine the state of the law on freedom of speech on today’s college campuses, discussing the decades of legal precedent… Read more

  • Know Your Rights: Kentucky Student Videotapes Search of Dormitory

    December 13, 2012

    On Monday, a University of Kentucky student posted a video on YouTube that showed him berating some police officers who entered his dormitory, according to Photography is Not a Crime. Warning: the video includes profanity. According to Tyler Kingkade of The Huffington Post, the University of Kentucky has now fired the police officer in question, which makes… Read more

  • Did Somebody Say ‘Gazongas’? You’re Busted!

    August 22, 2012

    There’s a movement afoot in state legislatures to ban employers and universities from demanding control of or monitoring the social media accounts of their students or employees. One such bill specifically aimed at students unanimously passed the California Senate yesterday. Advocates of these laws justifiably worry that, when students are required to provide their usernames… Read more

  • ‘Inside Higher Ed’ on Rash of Newspaper Thefts; Latest at University of Kentucky

    November 15, 2006

    Another week, another newspaper theft on campus. Inside Higher Ed reports today that 4,500 copies of the Kentucky Kernel, the University of Kentucky’s student newspaper, were stolen on Monday, becoming the latest example of a disturbing trend on campus.  As Tara reported just last Thursday, newspaper thefts have occurred in the past few weeks at… Read more