The Best and Worst Free Speech Colleges

Free speech college rankings

By: Reyna Gobel

College is both about careers and personal growth. But how can personal growth happen without students feeling comfortable expressing themselves in class and on campus?

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education partnered with RealClearEducation and College Pulse to  2020 College Free Speech Rankings: What’s the Climate for Free Speech on America’s College Campuses? surveyed about 20,000 students about they feel about free speech on campus.

Both feelings and more concrete actions were explored in the survey. For instance, students were asked if they felt comfortable speaking up about political viewpoints, race, and gender. They were also asked about whether flyers should be ripped down due to opposing viewpoints or whether candidates who don’t agree them should be allowed be speak.

Here are some of the key findings:

Ivy League Schools May or May Not Be Hubs for Free Speech

Twice as many Ivy League students were okay with blocking some students from entering events than other students surveyed. Over one third of Ivy Leaguers say shouting down a speaker might be acceptable compared to about a quarter of other students. The numbers are similar for it being okay to remove flyers for events they don’t like. It does vary by school. Dartmouth is ranked particularly low and Brown is on the higher end.

Politics Matter

The survey data shows freedom of speech affects conservative students more. Nearly 9 in 10 students thought Bernie Sanders should be allowed to speak. 7 in 10 felt Trump was an acceptable speaker, while 8 in 10 were okay with President Joe Biden speaking.

60% of students reported feeling that they can’t express an opinion because of how students, a professor, or their administration would respond. Almost three quarters of Strong Republicans felt they couldn’t express themselves. About half of Strong Democrats felt the same. 6 in 10 black students reported an instance where they self-censored an opinion.

Discussions of Race

4 in 10 students felt they couldn’t have an open and honest conversation about race on campus. About 7 in 10 black students felt they couldn’t do so. Nearly half of students felt they couldn’t discuss abortion.

The 5 Best and Worst Schools

The survey ranks the best schools as The University of Chicago, Kansas State University, Texas A&M University, University of California, Los Angeles, and Arizona State University. The 5 worst colleges on the list of 55 colleges are Syracuse University, Dartmouth College, Louisiana State University, University of Texas, and DePauw University.

Our Advice:

We believe the best way to tell if a school appreciates freedom of speech is having conversations with the school about it. If your student has a concern, they should talk to their current or future professors and see how they react. Talk with presidents of on campus political clubs about their beliefs. If the student is unsure what to ask, use this survey as guidance.