Annual report released by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has highlighted a growing issue with freedom of speech in Illinois colleges. In fact, eight out of 14 state’s institutions eight earned FIRE’s worst rating for maintaining policies that “clearly and substantially” restrict free speech for both students and faculty. According to FIRE, almost a million students at the otherwise highest rated colleges nationwide must find a “free speech zone” in order to exercise their expressive rights of free speech.
“Colleges should be a place for open debate and intellectual inquiry, but today, almost all colleges silence expression through policies that are often illiberal and, at public institutions, unconstitutional,” said FIRE Senior Program Officer Laura Beltz.
At this moment, over a quarter of educational institutions in the U.S. (28.5 percent, to be exact) received FIRE’s poorest rating. Among the states that scored the worst numbers are Alaska, Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, South Carolina, Vermont, Washington, and Wyoming, as well as the District of Columbia.
According to the report, only 9 percent of institutions (42 schools) do not maintain any policies, which compromise student expression of free speech. At the same time, over 90 percent of U.S. educational institutions do not comply with the obligations of the First Amendment. Another issue that the report cites is that ‘free speech zones,’ wherever available, are routinely being struck down by courts as part of lawsuit settlements.