We’re #1 again: in freedom of speech, that is. The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, FIRE, has listed its annual free speech rankings, with the lowest numbers going to the best schools. A number of things are assessed in these rankings, including student views (how comfortable they are expressing ideas, acceptability of disruptive conduct, etc.) as well as administrative conduct (speech code ranking, disinvitation, etc.) You can see all the criteria and how they were combined in their rankings summary booklet (download pdf here after filling in your information); the relevant bits for scoring are on pp. 9-12.
The email from Fire noted this:
The past year has shown just how vulnerable the free speech rights of both students and faculty are on America’s college campuses. FIRE stepped in, defending what these universities did not: freedom of speech. What can prospective college students or their parents do to ensure that they attend a college that respects freedom of speech?At Georgetown University, Ilya Shapiro was suspended — over a tweet! — from his new role as senior lecturer and executive director of the Georgetown Center for the Constitution. At American University, eight law students were placed under investigation for debating abortion in the wake of the leaked draft of the Dobbs Supreme Court decision. In both of these cases,
To see the rankings, click on the link below. I’ll put up to the top 15 and bottom ten schools. Last year we were #2 (I can’t remember who beat us out), but now we’re back on top again. This requires eternal vigilance on the part of the University of Chicago’s administration and faculty, for pressure from both above and below always tries to erode free speech—even here.
FIRE’s 2022-2023 College Free Speech Rankings. We surveyed 45,000 students and examined colleges’ track records on free speech to rank over 200 of America’s top colleges — giving you a straightforward guide to the best colleges for free speech in the country.Enter
Here are the top 15 schools with links to their evaluation pages:
12.) The College of William and Mary (my alma mater!)
Note that three of the 15 are in North Carolina, and nine are in the South (if you count Oklahoma as “south”). That’s a proportion from the South that I wouldn’t expect.
And the ten worst universities for free speech, with the worst listed first:
203.) Columbia University (!) Get to work, John McWhorter!
200.) Georgetown University
199.) Skidmore College
198.) Yale University (!)
197.) Northwestern University
196.) Pitzer College
195.) Scripps College
194.) Santa Clara University
Here are some other colleges of interest and their rankings:
170.) Harvard University
154.) Cornell University
169.) Princeton University
135.) Oberlin College
115.) Smith College
114.) Brown University
Sadly, The Evergreen State University is not listed.
And here are the special points made by FIRE, with the first two already noted above. The chilling of speech mentioned in the third and fourth points are important, which is why our Kalven Report stands as a buttress to Chicago’s Principles of Free Expression.
The University of Chicago was the top-ranked school in the College Free Speech Rankings for the second time in three years.
- Columbia University had, by far, the lowest score in the 2022 College Free Speech Rankings, with a Speech Climate rating of “Abysmal.” The University of Pennsylvania, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Georgetown University, and Skidmore College are also ranked in the bottom five.
More than three in five students (63%) expressed worry about damaging their reputation because of someone misunderstanding what they have said or done, and just over one in five (21%) reported that they feel a lot of pressure to avoid discussing controversial topics in their classes. Twenty-two percent reported that they often self-censor.
Roughly three in five students reported they would feel discomfort publicly disagreeing with a professor about a controversial topic or expressing an unpopular opinion to their peers on a social media account tied to their name.