Washington State University

Location: Pullman, Washington
Type: Public
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Speech Code Rating

Washington 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 51.01

Rankings / out of 203 colleges ranked

Overall Ranking 68
Openness 80
Tolerance (Liberals) 140
Tolerance (Conservatives) 99
Administrative Support 120
Comfort 108
Disruptive Conduct 22

Administrative Behavior

Supported Scholars 0
Sanctioned Scholars 0
Successful Disinvitations 0


Speech Climate AVERAGE
Speech Code YELLOW
  • REPORT: Artists clash with campus censors

    July 10, 2018

    Art purged for being “one-sided,” among other excuses Censors, often not understanding the message, ban art rather than grapple with its meaning PHILADELPHIA, July 10, 2018 — Art censorship is nothing new. Spanish conquistadors smashed ceramics of ancient Peruvian cultures that portrayed gay and lesbian sex. The Roman Catholic Church of the 15th century was… Read more

  • Washington State University settles wolf researcher’s academic freedom claims for $300,000

    May 18, 2018

    On May 14, a prominent wolf researcher settled with Washington State University over allegations that the school caved to legislative demands to stifle his research and expression. The $300,000 settlement follows credible allegations of infringements on the researcher’s academic freedom, spurred by complaints from a legislator and cattle rancher upset with the research. Dr. Robert… Read more

  • Washington state legislators call for censorship of student organization

    September 22, 2017

    Civil libertarians have come to expect that in the wake of a tragedy, some will call for the curtailment of freedoms that they perceive to have led to that tragedy. As if on cue, a group of 12 Washington state legislators served up a whopper last week, demanding that Washington State University de-recognize the WSU… Read more

  • Leadership roundup: How college leaders are answering questions about free speech

    April 25, 2017

    Controversy around free speech on college campuses seems to only be escalating: Charles Murray’s disastrous visit to Middlebury College, the violent response to Milo Yiannopoulos’ visit to the University of California, Berkeley, the shutting down of Heather Mac Donald’s Claremont McKenna College event, and just last week, Berkeley’s attempt to shut down Ann Coulter’s visit… Read more

  • Due Process Legal Update: Complaints and Rulings Keep Coming

    December 7, 2016

    Ordinarily, I wait more than a week between bringing you these due process legal updates. But in the days following my last dispatch, a number of interesting things have happened that I want to bring you up-to-date on. A complaint filed last week against Drake University in Iowa includes an intriguing argument. Like most such… Read more

  • What Campus Leaders Had To Say About Free Speech This Week [UPDATED]

    October 7, 2016

    Campus leaders have recently been taking advantage of opportunities—sometimes under pressure—to explain their approach to freedom of speech and other principles enshrined in the First Amendment. How did they fare with such tests this week? The Good Washington State University (WSU) Members of WSU’s administration—President Kirk Schulz, Provost and Executive Vice President Dan Bernardo, and… Read more

  • Washington State U. Agrees to Pay $120,000 to Professor in First Amendment Retaliation Suit

    November 5, 2014

    Torch readers may remember the case of former Washington State University (WSU) professor David Demers, who sued the university in 2009, claiming it violated his First Amendment rights by retaliating against him for distributing a pamphlet containing recommendations to improve WSU’s communications program and excerpts from a book he was writing. In September 2013, the… Read more

  • Ninth Circuit Modifies, Broadens Ruling in Important Academic Freedom Case

    February 10, 2014

    Back in September, Washington State University (WSU) Professor David Demers won a victory for faculty speech rights in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in the case of Demers v. Austin. As my colleague Susan explained in detail, the Demers court joined the Fourth Circuit in holding that academic freedom concerns warrant… Read more

  • ‘Chronicle’ Commentary Praises ‘Demers’ Decision, Protection for Academic Freedom

    September 30, 2013

    FIRE isn’t alone in celebrating the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit’s decision earlier this month in Demers v. Austin, a case in which the federal appellate court ruled that the First Amendment protected the academic speech of Washington State University professor David Demers. As we wrote, the decision is a significant win… Read more

  • ‘Demers v. Austin’ Shifts Circuit Split on Faculty Speech Rights

    September 6, 2013

    Yesterday we reported on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit’s decision in Demers v. Austin, in which the court held that a professor’s academic speech was protected under the First Amendment despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s holding in Garcetti v. Ceballos (2006) that government employees may be disciplined for speech “pursuant… Read more

  • Ninth Circuit: Professor’s Speech Protected Under First Amendment

    September 5, 2013

    In a victory for free speech on campus, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a ruling yesterday addressing a question raised but not answered by the Supreme Court of the United States in Garcetti v. Ceballos (2006): whether the First Amendment protects public college faculty members’ speech “related to scholarship… Read more

  • New Video: How Washington State Censored a Student Musical

    February 8, 2011

    In a new video from the 2010 Campus Freedom Network (CFN) Conference, former Washington State University (WSU) student Chris Lee discusses how administrators at WSU subsidized a group of protesters to disrupt his satirical play, Passion of the Musical. When he wrote, directed, and produced Passion of the Musical in 2005, Chris sought to create… Read more

  • Washington State University Appears to Have Gotten the Message on Bias Reporting Protocols; Will Other Universities?

    July 23, 2010

    The advent of bias reporting protocols on university campuses is viewed by FIRE as a pernicious threat to student speech, and with good reason. Universities that maintain and operate such policies typically encourage students and others on campus to report, often anonymously, occasions in which they experience or overhear any speech that they deem biased,… Read more

  • Schools Infringing on Free Speech Rights

    July 20, 2010

    Watch John Stossel’s interview with Greg and former Washington State University student Chris Lee, where they discuss WSU’s deplorable attempts to censor Lee’s satirical musical and the wider infirmity of politically correct speech codes on campus. 

  • Tonight on ‘Stossel’: Here Come the Speech Police

    July 15, 2010

    Recently, as Torch readers saw here, John Stossel’s syndicated column paid heed to Keith John Sampson’s outrageous case at Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis. Today, in a blog entry previewing tonight’s Stossel program, he notes an equally outrageous case: that of Washington State University student Chris Lee, whose satirical The Passion of the Musical… Read more

  • New FIRE Video on Vigilante Censorship Promotes Release of ‘New Threats to Freedom’

    May 17, 2010

    Tomorrow, Templeton Press’ new book New Threats to Freedom hits bookstores. To mark the release of this volume, which features original essays from a wide variety of noted authors including playwright David Mamet (of Glengarry Glen Ross fame), journalist Christopher Hitchens, author Christina Hoff Sommers, and many others, FIRE is releasing a brand new video… Read more

  • ‘I Believe in Free Speech and All, but I Draw the Line at Comedy Musicals!’

    May 17, 2010

    Back in 2005, Chris Lee, a student at Washington State University, set out make a comedy musical that, in the tradition of South Park, offended as broad a spectrum of people as possible. Unfortunately for him, he succeeded. His musical–a very loose parody of Mel Gibson’s 2004 film The Passion of the Christ–earned him protests,… Read more

  • This Month in FIRE History: Washington State University Bankrolls Vigilante Censorship

    July 29, 2009

    Over four years have passed since our fight with Washington State University began, but it still remains one of the most astonishing cases we have ever handled. It surrounded a controversial and purposefully offensive play that aimed, according to the playwright, Chris Lee, “to show people we’re not that different, we all have issues that… Read more

  • Free Speech under Attack during Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week

    October 25, 2007

    This week, as the Terrorism Awareness Project provides speakers at college campuses in order to increase awareness about terrorism of the Muslim extremist variety, the predictable has come to pass: speakers have been prevented by protesters from enjoying their freedom of speech. At Emory University, David Horowitz’s lecture ended prematurely when audience members refused to… Read more

  • Today in FIRE History: Heckler’s Veto at Washington State

    July 18, 2007

    As the dog days of summer come rolling in, and students and faculty enjoy the last few weeks before the academic year begins anew, we figured it was a good time to crack open FIRE’s vaults and recall outrageous cases gone by. July 18 is a particularly good day to start with, as it was… Read more

  • Dispositions in Teacher Education: Old Tricks, New Name

    March 14, 2007

    The Spring 2007 issue of Education Next features an excellent article on the widespread use of “dispositions” in teacher education. Authored by Kent State Professor Laurie Moses Hines, the article details how today’s “dispositions” are an updated version of the “mental hygiene” requirements widely utilized in teacher education between the 1930s and 1960s. Hines’s article… Read more

  • This Month in FIRE History: ‘Education Programs May Have a ‘Disposition’ for Censorship’

    September 12, 2006

    One year ago this month, FIRE launched in earnest its campaign against vague and politically loaded ‘dispositions’ standards in education programs. As our press release reported: A new trend in campus censorship is emerging: this summer, Washington State University used “dispositions” theory to punish an education student for his political and religious expression. The university… Read more

  • Professor Under Review for Saying 9/11 Might Be an ‘Inside Job’

    July 6, 2006

    The provost of the University of Wisconsin at Madison announced last week that the university would conduct a “review” of an instructor who has publicly stated that he believes the 9/11 attacks were an “inside job.” The instructor, Kevin Barrett, was a guest on a radio show last week where he defended his controversial views…. Read more

  • Justice for Political Dissenters

    June 8, 2006

    As FIRE reported this week, NCATE, the largest national accreditor of education schools, has decided to drop the term “social justice” from its “dispositions” criteria for student graduation. FIRE’s objection is not that we as an organization are opposed to social justice—far from it. In fact, if anything, FIRE would define its mission as a… Read more

  • John Leo Awards ‘Sheldons’ to the Richly Deserving

    May 1, 2006

    Those who follow John Leo’s columns know that he awards a yearly booby prize called the “Sheldon” (in dubious honor of former University of Pennsylvania President Sheldon Hackney, who presided over the famous “water buffalo” affair) to the university president who “does the most to look the other way when free speech is under assault… Read more

  • The Media Condemn Censorship at NKU

    April 17, 2006

    Today, the Cincinnati Enquirer published an editorial concerning an incident at Northern Kentucky University (NKU) where a professor invited a class “to express their freedom-of-speech rights” to destroy a “Cemetery of Innocents,” an anti-abortion display consisting of 400 crosses and a sign explaining its purpose. The editorial is right on point in saying: Northern Kentucky… Read more

  • Washington State Rejects Political Litmus Test for Education Students

    February 28, 2006

    PULLMAN, Wash., February 28, 2006—Six months ago, Ed Swan feared that his teaching career would end before it started, merely because his ideology differed from that of his professors at Washington State University (WSU). Today, thanks to a campaign of public exposure by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), WSU has completely repealed… Read more

  • Get it in Writing

    December 28, 2005

    As 2005 comes to a close, I feel obligated to report on a disturbing new trend. Although the steady stream of cases we receive continues unabated, their nature has, thankfully, become less and less egregious since FIRE’s beginnings. Lately, however, FIRE has been seeing a new variation in the reports we get—a complete and utter… Read more

  • Wendy McElroy Lauds FIRE

    December 21, 2005

    Friend of FIRE Wendy McElroy has an excellent article on foxnews.com about FIRE’s new Guide to First-Year Orientation and Thought Reform on Campus. McElroy writes: The Guide is yet another indication that political correctness is faltering on campuses across North America. To those who value the right of individuals to a conscience—that is, to judge… Read more

  • Cal State’s Spineless Defense

    December 20, 2005

    FIRE’s case at Cal State San Bernardino is making national headlines today. An Associated Press piece is running across California, and the San Bernardino County Sun, the Riverside Press Enterprise, and several other media outlets have published their own stories on Cal State’s assault on religious liberty. FIRE’s own Greg Lukianoff has also been taking… Read more

  • Daphne Patai on ‘Dispositions’

    December 20, 2005

    The invaluable Daphne Patai, who serves on FIRE’s Board of Directors, recently sent me some interesting thoughts on the abuse of “dispositions” and other vague, political standards in the modern academy. As loyal Torch readers know, students like Ed Swan at Washington State University and Bill Felkner at Rhode Island College have been the victims… Read more

  • FIRE’s Work Lauded in Newspapers Nationwide

    December 12, 2005

    It’s been a good couple of days for Justice Brandeis’ maxim that “sunlight is the best disinfectant.” Thanks to articles in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, and The Chronicle of Higher Education, news of FIRE’s efforts to disinfect the swamps of repression currently passing for American universities is reaching an ever-increasing number of… Read more

  • Washington State Rejects Mob Censorship—Finally

    December 12, 2005

    Washington State University (WSU) has spent much of 2005 making a name for itself as one of the premier schools in the country for unreasonable, unconstitutional, and frankly shameful censorship. Therefore it’s reason to celebrate that WSU has seemingly given up on protecting the “right” of audience members to shout down and physically threaten cast… Read more

  • Victory for Freedom of Expression at Washington State

    December 12, 2005

    PULLMAN, Wash., December 12, 2005—Thanks to a campaign led by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), Washington State University (WSU) has rejected the “heckler’s veto” and warned students not to disrupt a controversial play. WSU financed and organized the disruption of a different play by the same student playwright earlier this year. “WSU… Read more

  • Your ‘Guide’ to Fighting Thought Reform on Campus

    November 11, 2005

    If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they… Read more

  • Indefensible Dispositions

    October 19, 2005

    As the “dispositions” controversy rages on at Washington State (see also John Leo’s excellent column in this week’s edition of U.S. News & World Report), the defenders of ideological indoctrination are starting to step forward. Predictably, the argument follows the tired pattern of swearing loyalty to fairness and the First Amendment, but then following up… Read more

  • Washington State’s Latest Spin

    October 19, 2005

    To its credit, the student newspaper at Washington State University seems to be holding its administrators’ feet to the fire about the recent departure of Vice President for Student Affairs Charlene Jaeger (mentioned on The Torch here). In a recent article, Daily Evergreen reporter Brian Everstine pressed university president V. Lane Rawlins (whose administration has… Read more

  • Hey, Justice Scalia: Stay Away from Washington State!

    October 12, 2005

    There is clearly something deeply wrong at Washington State University—and things are getting worse, not better, as FIRE points out in today’s press release. Earlier this year, Washington State administrators organized and financed disruptive heckling of a student play that some found “offensive.” Despite significant and much-deserved negative media attention, Washington State President V. Lane… Read more

  • Washington State University Continues Campaign of Repression

    October 12, 2005

    PULLMAN, Wash., October 12, 2005—In recent months, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has intervened twice at Washington State University to protect students’ freedom of expression.  After publicly proclaiming respect for their students’ rights, Washington State administrators have now made clear that, between their grading students on their politics and their paying for… Read more

  • The Trouble with ‘Dispositions’

    September 21, 2005

    This morning, FIRE launched its second press release in two weeks detailing controversies surrounding the so-called dispositions evaluation of teaching candidates. Two weeks ago, we addressed the Brooklyn College School of Education’s attempt to censor Professor K. C. Johnson after he criticized overtly ideological elements in the school’s own dispositions program. Today, FIRE has set… Read more

  • Education Programs May Have a ‘Disposition’ for Censorship

    September 21, 2005

    PULLMAN, Wash., September 21, 2005—A new trend in campus censorship is emerging: this summer, Washington State University used “dispositions” theory to punish an education student for his political and religious expression. The university relented only after the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) became involved. “Dispositions” theory, increasingly in vogue in education programs, requires… Read more

  • Grover Furr Ignores Facts, Again

    September 9, 2005

    In the comments section below my and Azhar Majeed’s Inside Higher Ed article, the infamous Grover Furr makes some outrageous accusations against my and FIRE’s writings.  He claims we do not “substantiate” our claims, that our articles are “dishonest” and that our articles “do not merit publication.”  Here is my response: Professor Furr, In claiming… Read more

  • Smoking Gun at Washington State

    September 1, 2005

    Freedom of Information Act requests can be wonderful things. Several weeks ago, Washington State University student Chris Lee—the victim of a heckler’s veto at WSU when protestors disrupted the performance of his play, Passion of the Musical—made a formal request under state law for all university documents relating to the incident. Hidden within the 400… Read more

  • File Under ‘See No Evil’

    August 3, 2005

    Terry Caesar penned a column Monday on Inside Higher Ed lamenting the chilling effect speech codes have on professorial humor. Citing one of FIRE’s favorite examples, the former speech code at the University of Connecticut, he wrote: To relate an official response to some example of a joke, or even an unintended joke, on American… Read more

  • Washington State: The Story Gets Stranger and Stranger

    July 28, 2005

    Yesterday, I received the following e-mail from a student who attended the heckler-interrupted performance of the Passion of the Musical. The individual referred to as “Maldonado” is Brenda Maldonado, the administrator (an “Intercultural Student Development Coordinator” in the “Office for Campus Involvement”) who used university funds to purchase the hecklers’ tickets. This email comes from… Read more

  • The Authoritarian Communitarian Impulse

    July 27, 2005

    The Chronicle of Higher Education contains a fascinating account of an anthropology professor who spent a year posing as an undergrad student as part of a study of modern student life. Many of her findings were unsurprising (particularly for those of us who can still remember our own college days). Students are busy, focused on… Read more

  • Mark Tapscott on Washington State University

    July 25, 2005

    Check out this article by Mark Tapscott on FIRE’s ongoing case at Washington State University.

  • ‘Pity the Lion’

    July 19, 2005

    Late yesterday, Professor Fred Baumann forwarded David and me an email he had sent to president Rawlins at Washington State University concerning the university’s recent endorsement of the heckler’s veto. Interestingly, Fred’s clever and funny response exemplifies the kind of biting criticism and satire that is so likely to get you in trouble on the… Read more

  • Spokane Newspaper Denounces WSU Censorship

    July 19, 2005

    Mere hours after FIRE went public in defense of Washington State University student Chris Lee’s free speech rights, the newspaper most devoted to covering Washington State University wholeheartedly endorsed FIRE’s position in a powerful editorial. The editorial is even sweeter given that the paper in question, the Spokane Spokesman-Review, was responsible for running a fairly… Read more

  • Passion of the Heckler

    July 18, 2005

    As you can see on the FIRE homepage, we have just gone public with an incredible case at Washington State University. Not only did Washington State allow hecklers to disrupt student Chris Lee’s satirical musical Passion of the Musical because they were “offended” by it, but administrator Brenda Maldonado even bought tickets for them! (We… Read more

  • Washington State University Bankrolls Vigilante Censorship

    July 18, 2005

    PULLMAN, Wash., July 18, 2005—In a shameful distortion of the First Amendment, Washington State University has morally and financially supported disruptive heckling and threats at a controversial student play. Washington State went so far as to pay for hecklers to attend student playwright Chris Lee’s Passion of the Musical. It then allowed the hecklers to… Read more