Free Speech on Campus: Does it Still Exist?

Expressing Ideas on College Campuses

By: Reyna Gobel MBA, MJ

When your family chose a college, the assumption was likely the school would help them expand their thought universe. When they graduate, they’ll not just land a job but developed a thought process for thinking for themselves. Unfortunately, this depends on the school and the program.

Here are a few of highlights from the Fire Rankings, which ranks schools on their level of freedom of speech. You can also check their rankings to see where your student’s school lands in the list.

University of Chicago Sits at The Top, Yet Students Don’t Feel Open to Express Opposing Opinions

Not only did the University of Chicago top the list this year, it has topped the list for the list for two of the last three years. However, you still have to look behind the numbers. While the school excels at allowing speaking of all types, its 62nd in openness and has a 4:1 ratio of students aligning with liberal over conservative values. Students felt uncomfortable at times expressing their own ideas.

Moderate Views Seem to Be Missing

As with the rest of modern culture, moderate views feel under represented or underreported. While the report accounts for liberals and conservatives, anyone in the middle is left out including myself. One of the many reasons students should thoroughly research schools first.

Columbia University Had an Abysmal Rating

Coulmbia University led the Ivy League and all leagues of schools with by far, the lowest free speech ranking. The actual rating was Abysmal. Why?  Other schools that seemed eager to snatch the worst freedom of speech school college title? The University of Pennsylvania, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Georgetown University, and Skidmore College are contenders.

The Details Are as Important as the Rating

When using the tool to check your student’s school, you don’t want to just look at whether a school is good or not. Check out the details. Is it because they allow speakers? Do students feel open to express their opinions? Reviewing these details will help when your student is ready ot ask deeper questions of both their current school or school they’re considering attending.

Ask the Right Questions

How can your student determine freedom of speech beyond rankings? They should start with the student affairs and ask questions about recent speakers invited to give speeches at the school. Find out what clubs are on campus. Talk to the political groups on campus. student affairs will have contact numbers for presidents of college democrats, college republicans, and issue specific group such as one for environmentalism or LGBT rights. Not only will your student learn what problems or triumphs other students may have with freedom of speech on campus. They may also find a club, they want to join.