2023 Best and Worst Colleges for Free Speech

Free speech is a treasured right granted by the Constitution of the United States. Taking this right for granted or allowing it to be usurped puts our country and especially citizens in danger of losing not only their First Amendment Rights but other rights as well.

In his fable “The Bear Who Let It Alone,” humorist James Thurber said, “You might as well fall on your face as lean too far backwards.” Good universities can make bad decisions that have them leaning too far backward, especially when silencing free speech.

Worst colleges for free speech

Colleges and universities should uphold and encourage free speech, but three schools have earned a place among the worst for free speech according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). Each university mishandled a situation involving free speech.

  • Georgetown University – This school has earned notoriety for clamping down on free speech several times. Most recently, the school preventing students from campaigning for presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, citing their tax-exempt status as the reason. Perhaps more egregious is that the university ignores its free speech policies.
  • California State University, Long Beach – University leaders clamped down on free speech when they forced the closure of a play that made fun of racial stereotypes and showed how race defines a person. The actors in the play were minorities themselves, but the university refused to allow for artistic expression that mentioned race.
  • California State University, Los Angeles – Not to be outdone by a sister school in the same system, the university mishandled a speaking engagement by conservative Ben Shapiro by offsetting the cost of security on students, requesting a panel of opposing speakers, and imposing a tax on controversial speech.

Best colleges for free speech

Other universities serve as best examples of how free speech rights can be an integral part of the higher education experience. These schools include:

What sets apart the best colleges for free speech?

The best colleges for free speech develop clear policies and follow them. Schools that remain true to their founder’s ideas regarding free speech have had the best success in handling divergent thought and its expression.

Universities have long encouraged diverse thinking, and they must continue to do so. Students enrolled in institutions of higher education should learn how to listen to uncomfortable ideas and develop their own worldviews. The caveat is that college students are becoming less open-minded toward free speech, according to a Brookings Institute study.

Helping these students accept and encourage free speech is something to which every university should aspire.

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