When my son, Anthony, started looking at colleges, the environment they provide for freewheeling debate was an important consideration. Respect for freedom of speech and thought in colleges has been on the ropes for some time and has gotten worse over the past year. Some schools, like the one my son applied for, rank well in terms of tolerance for diversity of opinion, but others are absolute pits.
The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), a civil liberties group that started out centered on academia, has just released a rogues gallery of higher education institutions that anyone with an independent mind should avoid.
“Each year, FIRE awards a special honor to a select group of American colleges that go above and beyond in their efforts to trample on free speech. These are schools that have done nothing to crush faculty rights, destroy student expression, and turn down guest speakers. In the dust,” the group announced on February 2 “For that, we owe them their just reward: a spot on our exclusive ’10 Worst Colleges for Free Speech’ list.”
The disreputable schools are: Hamline University, University of Pennsylvania, Collin College, Texas A&M, University of Pennsylvania, Emerson College, Emporia State University, Tennessee Tech, University of Oregon and Loyola University.
Additionally, Georgetown University won a Lifetime Censorship Award for “taking 122 days to determine that a 45-word tweet is protected political speech.” It involved law professor Ilya Shapiro, who ultimately resigned despite enduring an ordeal over comments about the Supreme Court’s selection process. He worries that the school “sets me up for discipline the next time I violate progressive bigotry.”
After appearing multiple times on the university’s “10 Worst” lists for everything from the Shapiro incident to barring students from campaigning for Bernie Sanders, FIRE presented a lifetime award recognizing “Georgetown’s penchant for censorship.” In this dubious achievement, it joins Yale University, DePaul University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and Syracuse University.
The other schools on this year’s “10 Worst” list may not fall into the same repeat-offender category, but they certainly got creative in earning their Bowie Award.
Minnesota’s Hamline won his spot by firing an adjunct art professor who “displayed a 14th-century painting depicting the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad — but not before he issued multiple warnings, acknowledging that some Muslims believe the prophet should not be depicted in any way, and that they had students Said they didn’t need to see,” Fire said. The ensuing controversy over speech and academic freedom continues, with faculty president Phineas Miller last month asked to resign.
Collin College, a community college in Texas and therefore bound by the First Amendment, earned its distinction for a series of retaliations against faculty who upset the administration. Its most recent move was to fire “history professor Michael Phillips for advocating for the removal of Confederate statues and for criticizing the college’s COVID-19 policy,” as FIRE put it. Phillips is suing Colin.
The University of Oregon earned its ranking by instructing faculty search committees to impose diversity, equity and inclusion assessments on candidates that go beyond the goal of creating a welcoming environment and instead serve as normative litmus tests. “Basically, if you want to work at the UO, you have to obey and promote the DEI of the administrators. [Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion] vision,” notes Fire. “These requirements violate teachers’ freedom of expression and academic freedom.”
According to the American Association of University Professors’ 2022 survey, DEI statements have spread across academia and are now included in tenure considerations at 21.5 percent of colleges and universities and 45.6 percent of large institutions of higher education. Some are less ideological than others, but they increasingly tend to claim allegiance to particular viewpoints.
“Every psychologist who wants to present at the most important convention in our field must now say how their work advances anti-racism,” NYU professor Jonathan Haidt said last year to the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, objecting to the “clearly ideological” DEI requirement. . He announced his resignation from the professional organization.
DEI statements seeped into my son’s academic considerations, albeit tangentially. After he had already decided to attend the University of Arizona, the state’s Goldwater Institute reported that “all three public universities in Arizona have begun requiring faculty job applicants to provide mandatory ‘diversity statements’ as a condition of hire.” So far, 28 percent of job postings at the University of Arizona require a DEI statement, far fewer than 73 percent of postings at Northern Arizona University or 81 percent at Arizona State University.
The University of Arizona scores well overall in respect for free speech, ranking 18th (above average) in FIRE’s latest College Free Speech Rankings. That’s good news for my kid, but not so encouraging news overall for someone in higher education. That assessment found an increase in the number of schools hitting rock-bottom “red light” status compared to those enjoying a “green light” rating for tolerance of ideas and expression.
“Two universities joined the ranks of green light schools this year: the University of North Carolina at Asheville and the University of South Florida. None of the green light schools lost their status, 12 schools dropped from yellow to red light ratings, and the percentage of red light schools increased by 0.8 percent, a 15-year increase The first increase in,” according to FIRE
This kind of slippage is why it’s so important to call out schools for maintaining an open and respectful environment for speech and thought that, for whatever reason, punishes those who express themselves and debate ideas. Without results, it is very easy for them to target dissidents, activists, activists and dissident thinkers. Ultimately, you end up with an echo chamber rather than an institution of learning.
By all appearances, my son has a good start in higher education and plans to attend a school that meets his educational needs while encouraging open discussion. everyone Preparing college applications would likewise be well-served to consider the free speech environment as they contemplate their continuing education, and go beyond all those listed in the “10 Worst Colleges for Free Speech.”