Some Universities, Even Public Ones, Actually Support Free Speech
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has released its annual college free speech rankings. This is the largest survey of campus free speech, reaching 37,000 students from the nation’s top 159 colleges and universities; it assesses each school’s speech climate across seven aspects: perceived comfort in speaking one’s mind publicly, soundness of the speech code, reported levels of self-censorship, tolerance for liberal speakers, tolerance for conservative speakers, levels of acceptance for disrupting campus speech, and ability to discuss challenging topics on campus.
Topping 2021’s list is Claremont McKenna College, which has been celebrated for gracefully handling a controversial speech by the conservative journalist Heather Mac Donald and for launching an Open Academy Initiative intended to foster viewpoint diversity. In the poll, 54 percent of students report that their administration makes it “extremely” or “very” clear that they champion free speech.
“At higher ranking schools, the students felt the administration made their stance on free speech issues clear,” says Sean Stevens, FIRE’s senior research fellow of polling and analytics. “It’s a testament to the power of strong leadership on the part of administrators.” Finishing out the top five were the University of Chicago, the University of New Hampshire, Emory University, and Florida State University.
On the other side of the spectrum is Marquette University, which drew ire for attempting to revoke Prof. John McAdams’ tenure and to terminate him. (McAdams ultimately was reinstated after prevailing in
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