Speech on campus

Study ranks colleges based on compliance with First Amendment

When it comes to allowing freedom of speech, most universities miss the mark, according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. FIRE’s “Spotlight on Speech Codes 2019: The State of Free Speech on our Nation’s Campuses” evaluated 466 college and university policies to determine their compliance with the First Amendment. Nearly 90 percent maintain policies that restrict or too easily could restrict student and faculty expression. Typically, this is because they misapply or abuse First Amendment exceptions (i.e., nonprotected speech such as harassment, obscenity, defamation, inciting violence, fighting words, threats and intimidation) “to punish constitutionally protected speech,” the study states. Almost 800,000 students at top U.S. colleges—including Stanford and CSU Bakersfield, Dominguez Hills, Los Angeles and San Marcos—must find a “free speech zone” to exercise their expressive rights. Chico State has a “yellow light” ranking, for policies that “restrict expression that is protected under First Amendment standards and invite administrative abuse.” (Chico State’s Free Speech Area is a recommended, versus required, space for demonstrations, etc.)