by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
University administrations still aren’t getting the message that colleges should be bastions of free inquiry. If they want to avoid losing big money in lawsuits, maybe they should pay heed to the newest, comprehensive free speech rankings of colleges nationwide.
Parents and students, too, should look askance at institutions that trample free speech, and taxpayers and voters should respond more energetically against policies such as student loan forgiveness that subsidize the repressive regimes.
The new rankings from the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression paint a dismal picture, especially of some of the most storied universities in the land. At the five least-free colleges identified by FIRE, for example, attempts to “deplatform” speakers showed a frightening 81% success rate.
Those five worst institutions, starting with the worst, are Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of South Carolina, Georgetown, and Fordham. Harvard earned FIRE’s first-ever “zero” rating, and indeed arithmetically earned a negative 10.69 rating, but FIRE decided zero was the lowest allowable score. Out of nine deplatforming attempts in five years, Harvard actually sanctioned speakers seven times, including three terminations of faculty members, the revocation of a conservative student’s admission, and a canceled speech invitation to a feminist scholar apparently still not leftist enough for campus commissars.
The survey, by the way, was massive, with 55,102 students taking part. It showed that tolerance for opposing views on campuses nationwide, not just at those five worst colleges, is remarkably low. Nearly half of students (45%, up from 37% last year) said it is acceptable at least to some degree to “block” other students from attending a disfavored speech, with 27% saying even violence is justified for that end.
Both faculty and the students themselves are generally at fault, but it is the responsibility of administrators and faculty to set expectations and create an atmosphere of unfettered intellectual expression.