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See where your college landed in this year’s Free Speech Rankings

Sep 30, 2022 by Casey Mattox

It’s that time of year. September is when college rankings start to get real.

No, I’m not referring to the return of University of Alabama football (though that’s certainly up there).

I’m talking about the 2022 College Free Speech rankings by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (a.k.a FIRE, formerly known as the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) in partnership with College Pulse.

See where your alma mater ranks

FIRE’s “College Free Speech Rankings” are the largest survey on student free expression — including nearly 45,000 college students to get a comprehensive look at the climate on America’s campuses.

A few weeks ago, I urged parents and students to look into colleges’ speech policies and culture before choosing a school.

FIRE’s rankings make it easier to do so than ever before.

FIRE has long reviewed university speech policies, but these rankings go much further, evaluating the actual culture for speech on campus and how universities handle free speech controversies in addition to their written policies. FIRE makes it possible for parents, students, faculty members, lawmakers and others to actually compare universities on free speech.

That makes these rankings an excellent tool to understand what higher education is getting wrong about free speech — and hopefully which universities might be the best model to get it right.

Some of the findings include the following:

  • 63% of students expressed worry about damaging their reputation because someone misunderstood what they said or did.
  • 21% of students reported that they feel a lot of pressure to avoid discussing controversial topics in their classes.
  • 22% of students reported that they often self-censor.

Universities should — even must — be the place where students engage with, and learn from, different perspectives. But FIRE Senior Research Fellow Sean Stevens raises a critical point: “How can students develop their distinct voices and ideas in college if they’re too afraid to engage with each other?

Indeed. And with the rising cost of college, more students and parents should be asking just what they are getting for the cost of that education — and whether they can really get it in an educational environment where speech isn’t free.

Also, while I’m on the subject of FIRE: What does it have in common with Law and Order: SVU? Actor and rapper Ice-T! Ice-T, who plays Sergeant Fin Tutuola on SVUreleased a video with FIRE last week on the importance of protecting free speech and his experience with music censorship. Check it out!

Civil liberties are the solution to uncivil times. Join the defense of Free Speech:

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