“half of top American colleges and universities maintain policies that restrict online expression protected under First Amendment standards”
It’s astounding that this has been allowed to happen in higher education. How do we turn this around?
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education reports:
Report: 88% of universities restrict expression — and online classes are especially dangerous for student speech
Students may be able to find their professors and classmates online, but many won’t find their speech rights there. A new study by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education found half of top American colleges and universities maintain policies that restrict online expression protected under First Amendment standards, and 9 in 10 restrict speech on campus.
Spotlight on Speech Codes 2021: The State of Free Speech on Our Nation’s Campuses analyzes the written policies at 478 of America’s top colleges and universities for their protection of free speech. The report finds 88% of American colleges maintain policies that restrict — or could be interpreted to restrict — expression.
“These policies have real-world consequences,” said Laura Beltz, author of the report and a senior program officer for policy reform at FIRE. “Students and professors around the country face punishment for speech that is clearly protected by the First Amendment or a school’s free speech promises.”
For example, a student at New Jersey’s Stockton University faced possible suspension, a fine, and a mandatory “social justice workshop” after using a photo of President Donald Trump as his Zoom background, which the university claimed caused other students to feel “offended, disrespected, and taunted.” That, combined with a Patrick Henry-esque political post on Facebook, led the university to charge the student with six policy violations, including harassment and “cyberbullying,” before FIRE’s public involvement caused the university to back down.
Stockton is just one of almost 200 public institutions that maintain online speech policies that run afoul of the First Amendment.
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