Claremont McKenna College and the University of Chicago have been recognized as the best colleges in the US for protecting the free speech of students, according to a survey conducted by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).
Both private academic institutions received the highest ratings among more than 150 academic institutions that participated in the study. The data was collected from over 37,000 students.
According to the organization, respondents were asked questions to determine if they can freely discuss challenging topics such as race, gender, and geo-political conflict on campus. The questions were also formulated to identify if students at certain colleges often hold back from openly sharing their views.
“Our rankings guide prospective students and their parents toward schools that value free speech and open inquiry. They also help us hold schools accountable and demand they do better,” FIRE executive director Robert Shibley said in a press release.
Aside from Claremont and UChicago, the University of New Hampshire, Emory University, and Florida State University were among the top five colleges in upholding freedom of expression.
Worst Colleges for Free Speech
The survey found that Marquette University in Wisconsin and DePauw University in Indiana are the two worst colleges in upholding students’ freedom of speech. Louisiana State University, Boston College, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York round out the bottom five on the list.
According to FIRE senior research counsel Adam Goldstein, students should know the status of free speech on campus before committing to any academic institution. He said a college that does not clearly protect the right to free speech is not an ideal school to apply to, even if it has a fancy stadium or small class sizes.
Meanwhile, of the thousands of students surveyed, over 80 percent admitted that they censored their viewpoints at their colleges some of the time. They said racial inequality, abortion, and gun control are the most difficult subjects to discuss.
One-third of respondents also revealed that the administrators of their colleges made it “either very or extremely” clear that they will protect the freedom of expression of students.
“The research is clear, and our experience working with these schools confirms it: Much of the campus climate for expression is determined by the administration. Staking out a leadership position on free speech and open debate resonates with students and has a real effect on a campus’ climate for free expression,” FIRE senior research fellow Sean Stevens explained.