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Over Past Decade, College Speech Codes Have Dropped 40 Percent

Over Past Decade, College Speech Codes Have Dropped 40 Percent

By Rob Shimshock

Speech codes on college campuses have decreased by over 40 percent in the past decade and around 7 percent in the past year, allowing students to express their opinions more freely, according to a Tuesday report.

Despite this trend, over 90 percent of universities still have at least one restriction on students’ free speech, according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a free speech nonprofit. FIRE released its 2018 guide “Spotlight on Speech Codes” guide where the organization assigned a “green light,” “yellow light,” or “red light” rating to colleges based on the institution’s embrace of free speech.

“More institutions than ever before understand the importance of free speech and are taking concrete steps to protect it,” Samantha Harris, FIRE’s vice president of policy research said in a press release Tuesday. “There is still a lot of work to be done, though — and we look forward to working with more colleges and universities in the years to come.”

About one-third of colleges rated by FIRE for 2018 received a “red light” rating, meaning those institutions clearly and severely limit student free speech on campus. This figure dropped seven percent from last year’s report and is 42 percent lower than FIRE’s 2009 figure.

Thirty-seven institutions now have a “green light” rating, including Kansas State University, which earned the rating in August, stating that free speech rights are essential for civil rights movements and that marginalized members of society would be most hurt by encroachments on First Amendment rights.

Approximately one out of nine colleges surveyed by FIRE boast “free speech zones,” that confine student protests and other expression to small or remote locations.

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