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90% of American Colleges Restrict Free Speech [Report]


Most of the colleges and universities across the United States adopt policies that restrict free speech on campus, a new report has found.

Nine out of ten colleges in the U.S. restrict free expression by students and faculty, according to the report titled Spotlight on Speech Codes 2019: The State of Free Speech on Our Nation’s Campuses released by Fire.

The non-profit found that 89.7 percent of colleges scuttle free speech after analyzing policies of top 466 higher educational institutions across the nation and rated various schools as “red light,” “yellow light,” or “green light” on the basis of their policies.

Three out of seven Ivy League schools – Harvard University, Princeton University, and Dartmouth College – were rated red by the report.

 “Most colleges impose burden some conditions on expression by maintaining policies that restrict students’ free speech rights,” said FIRE Senior Program Officer Laura Beltz, lead author of the study.

“Colleges should be a place for open debate and intellectual inquiry, but today, almost all colleges silence expression through policies that are often illiberal and, at public institutions, unconstitutional.” 

The report saw a decline  (to 28.5 percent) in colleges earning red-light rating for the eleventh year in a row. It also saw a decline in private universities earning the red light rating from 50 percent to 47.1 percent this year.

When it comes to maintaining “free speech zone” policies, only 10 percent colleges are able to implement it.

“Many states have made incredible strides toward eliminating speech codes — whether that’s through collaboration with FIRE, legislative action, or nudging from peer institutions,” said Beltz.

“In other states, too many students are left to fend for themselves to protect their rights against policies that — whether explicitly or covertly — erode student expression.”

Most of the colleges that restrict free speech are located in the District of Columbia and 11 states: Vermont, Washington, Alaska, Massachusetts, New Jersey, South Carolina, Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, and Wyoming.

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