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The report ranked 248 college campuses nationwide, analyzing factors from speech codes to reactions to guest speakers. It included a survey of roughly 55,000 college students. Harvard, one of the nation’s top law schools, scored a zero out of 100, the lowest score ever recorded, according to FIRE.
“Each year, the climate on college campuses grows more inhospitable to free speech,” said FIRE Director of Polling and Analytics Sean Stevens. “Some of the most prestigious universities in our country have the most repressive administrations. Students should know that a college degree at certain schools may come at the expense of their free speech rights.”
Harvard’s speech climate was ranked as “abysmal” after FIRE surveyed more than 200 students about their experience at the Ivy League School. One student from the class of 2023 reportedly said that they were required to start every class stating their pronouns, while another said they were afraid to be open about their opinions.
“I often avoid posting controversial takes on social media tied to my name because I am afraid that they might be misconstrued by my classmates or admin,” a student from the class of 2024 reportedly said.
Other schools joining Harvard at the bottom of the free speech rankings included the University of Texas (Austin), Dartmouth College, Duquesne University, Northwestern University, Skidmore College, Fordham University, Georgetown University, the University of South Carolina, and the University of Pennsylvania.
According to the survey, up to 72% of all students surveyed said conservative speakers should not be welcome on campus. Stanford University, where a Trump-appointed judge was shouted down by students earlier this year while attempting to deliver a speech on campus, ranked 207 out of 248 overall, and 237 for disruptive conduct.
The best schools, according to the survey, were Michigan Technological University, Auburn University, the University of New Hampshire, Oregon State University, Florida State University, the University of Virginia, Texas A&M University, George Mason University, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and the University of Colorado Boulder.
“We are very pleased to see that a number of university presidents are taking the issue of freedom of speech and academic freedom seriously by signing on to free speech initiatives,” said FIRE President and CEO Greg Lukianoff. “However, they have a long way to go toward restoring public trust. After all, an environment in which you can actually get in trouble for the ‘wrong’ academic opinion is not one that can be depended upon to produce reliable knowledge. It’s especially disturbing that some of the worst performing institutions are among America’s most influential schools, including Harvard, Georgetown, Northwestern and Dartmouth.”