10 Worst Colleges For Free Speech
Original List by
the university of cincinnati
The University of Cincinnati maintains a shockingly restrictive free speech zone comprising just 0.1% of the school's 137-acre campus. The policy, which was named FIRE's Speech Code of the Month back in December of 2007, quarantines "demonstrations, pickets, and rallies" to a tiny portion of campus, requires students to request permission to use the zone a full ten working days in advance, and threatens students with criminal prosecution for violations, warning that "[a]nyone violating this policy may be charged with trespassing."
Topping the list last year for threatening to expel a law student for harassment due to his role in a satirical blog about life in law school, Syracuse University makes the list again for an even worse case. This past year, Syracuse's School of Education effectively expelled an education student who complained on his own Facebook page about a comment that he thought was racially insulting. Matt Werenczak was required to undergo counseling and diversity training just to earn a chance of readmission. Just hours after FIRE took Matt's case public, Syracuse backed down but called its free speech violations "standard" and blamed them on the rules of its accreditor, the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).
In December 2010, tenured criminal law professor Lawrence J. Connell was banned from Widener's Delaware campus and charged with numerous violations of the university's Faculty Member Discrimination and Harassment Code. His crimes? Aside from allegedly using the term "black folks" (a choice of words that even President Obama uses), his real "offense" seemed to be his use of the name of Dean Linda Ammons in hypothetical classroom crime scenarios (a common practice in law schools). When a faculty panel recommended that this nonsense be dropped, Dean Ammons allegedly induced two law students to refile harassment charges against Connell, and added a new charge of "retaliation" for defending himself. Connell was cleared of all charges of harassment and discriminat
Last fall, Harvard pressured all freshmen to sign a morality pledge promising that they would exercise "civility" and "kindness ... on a par with intellectual attainment" (a nice-sounding policy with terrible implications for academic freedom, which I explained here). Under pressure, Harvard decided not to publish the names of those who signed it, but still posted the pledges in every residence hall. When it came time for the annual Harvard-Yale football game, Harvard's licensing office prohibited Yale's freshman class from using the names of famous Harvard dropouts Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg on game-day T-shirts.
Talk about a chilling effect on speech, Yale has made its community downright frigid. We criticized Yale last year for censoring a book with cartoon images of Mohammed in an academic book about those very cartoons, and for quashing its Freshman Class Council's T-shirt for the annual Harvard-Yale football match because the shirts quoted F. Scott Fitzgerald referring to Harvard students as "sissies." Yale has kept busy since then. It censored the freshman class again, absurdly refusing to approve this year's tees unless Harvard approved them, too (see Harvard's entry). Under pressure from the federal government, Yale also suspended a fraternity for five years after the pledges' satirical, juvenile, and intentionally offensive outdoor chants about sex were deemed to be "imp
st. augustine's college
St. Augustine's College in Raleigh, North Carolina, earned its place on this list by banning student Roman Caple from participating in its spring 2011 graduation ceremonies merely for advising his fellow students on Facebook to come prepared for a contentious meeting about the school's recovery from a destructive tornado. For this civic-minded expression, which the college laughably twisted into a "negative social media exchange," St. Augustine's deemed Caple to be "attempt[ing] to create chaos" and "fuel[ing] an already tense situation." It seems there were some thin skins among the St. Augustine's administration.
michigan state university
Michigan State University remains on our list this year in light of its ongoing prohibition on "spamming," which it defines as emailing more than 10 people the same unsolicited email within 48 hours. MSU noted in January that "MSU IT resources have a finite capacity" which apparently cannot handle 11 unexpected emails over two days.
Colorado College remains on our list for refusing to back down from finding two students guilty of "violence" for the "juxtaposition of weaponry and sexuality" when they posted satirical flyers on campus. Back in 2008, two male students using the pseudonym "Coalition of Some Dudes" created a flyer, "The Monthly Bag," that parodied "The Monthly Rag," a flyer produced by the Feminist and Gender Studies Interns. Classic case of meeting speech with more speech in the marketplace of ideas, right?
johns hopkins university
For five years, Johns Hopkins University has been forcing students to live by a neo-Victorian "civility" policy prohibiting "rude, disrespectful behavior." Then-president William R. Brody announced that uncivil, "tasteless," and insufficiently "serious" speech would not be tolerated, invoking the specter of "death and destruction" if people disrespect one another.
Sadly, Tufts University has yet to undo the violation of its promise that it is "committed to free and open discussion of ideas and opinions." During the 2006-2007 school year the campus conservative journal, The Primary Source, published two satirical pieces: a Christmas carol mocking affirmative action policies and an "itinerary" for Tufts' "Islamic Awareness Week" that printed facts about Islam and called the religion "intolerant." Rather than taking the opportunity to enter debate of such important issues, Tufts charged the paper for having "targeted" black students and Muslims for "embarrassment" and found the publication guilty of harassment. Tufts then refused to allow The Primary Source to print anonymous articles in the
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