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Report: Campus Free Speech Might Be Spreading, But the Federal Government Wants to Stop That

Foundation for Individual Rights in Education releases update on campus speech codes.

ShoutingDreamstimeSome good news and some bad news from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education: the number of college campuses maintaining restrictions on speech has decreased for an eighth consecutive year, but the Education Department’s guidance on sexual harassment continues to pose a significant threat to free expression.

According to FIRE’s 2016 report on “The State of Free Speech on Our Nation’s Campuses,” just 49.3 percent of American universities maintain severely unconstitutional speech codes. This is the first time in FIRE’s 16-year history that statistic has dipped below 50 percent. Additionally, six universities eliminated speech codes altogether: George Mason University, Purdue University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Western State Colorado University, the University of North Florida, and Purdue University Calumet.

At the same time, the federal government has stepped up its increasingly censorious guidance to universities. ED’s Office for Civil Rights, which enforces gender equity under the auspices of Title IX, continues to bully campuses into adopting administrative policies that abridge students’ free speech and due process rights.

“While many universities have revised speech codes, an increasing number are adopting more restrictions on speech under pressure from the Department of Education,” wrote FIRE’s Samantha Harris. “These hard-fought gains for student and faculty speech rights could be reversed if the federal government is left unchecked.”

FIRE notes that Education Secretary Arne Duncan recently expressed interest in figuring out how to “do more” to address racial insensitivity on campuses. One can easily imagine such a federal effort having a negative impact on campus free speech.

Despite this report’s relative positivity about the state of free speech on campus, it’s hard to state definitively that things are getting either better or worse. A few recent polls show worryingly high levels of support for censorship among students, but it’s not really clear if these results actually reflect a change in attitudes among young people. My impression is that students are growing more and more concerned about their safety—including emotional safety—and administrators are increasingly expected to protect them from unrealistic harm in ways that threaten the climate of free expression on campuses.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime

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  • Crusty Juggler||

    FIRE notes that Education Secretary Arne Duncan recently expressed interest in figuring out how to “do more” to address racial insensitivity on campuses.

    A useless statement from a useless man doing a useless job.

  • Zeb||

    And nicely sums up the absurdity of the whole situation. Could there possibly be a more racially sensitive place than a contemporary American college campus?

  • Lee G||

    My impression is that students are growing more and more concerned about their safety—including emotional safety

    People who are soaked in fear are the most dangerous. And this bunch sees imaginary threats around every corner.

  • ||

    But...do they really? Because I don't think they do. They don't act like they do. They act like shitheads trying to leverage fake "fear" to get people to kowtow to their demands. They sure as fuck don't act like people who are actually afraid of anything besides not getting their way.

  • Swiss Servator||

    Indeed - when the demands for cancelled exams because of this or that arose nice and early in the crybully movement, I figured it was ,"Oh, a method to get things I want!"

  • Crusty Juggler||

    That's what happens when you spend a lot of time in your safe space.

  • SIV||

    Robby's projecting concerns about his own emotional safety.

  • Hugh Akston||

    My impression is that students are growing more and more concerned about their safety—including emotional safety—and administrators are increasingly expected to protect them from unrealistic harm in ways that threaten the climate of free expression on campuses.

    I get that there are some high-profile incidents like Yale and Mizzou that lend themselves to this conclusion, but is there any evidence that they are part of a larger national trend rather than just isolated incidents of local hysteria reaching critical mass?

  • Crusty Juggler||

    There is a trend, but whether or not it continues is the question.

    The millennials could just move on to another trend, which they seem ready to do en masse.

  • Loki||

    What we need is to find a new shiny object to distract them.

  • Hugh Akston||

    What I asked for was some evidence that it is a trend.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    There were complaints at a number of schools at almost at the same time, so that is why I think it could be considered a "trend." I think it could easily dissipate next year.

  • Rich||

    Duncan recently expressed interest in figuring out how to “do more” to address racial insensitivity on campuses.

    "But this vital task will, of course, require significant additional resources."

  • Griffin3||

    That picture is LITERALLY screaming for some alt-text.

  • Gulliver||

    Campuses To Require Trigger Warnings About Trigger Warnings In Future
    http://www.breakingburgh.com/c.....in-future/

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