Arnn responds to FIRE’s free speech warning label

Maddy Welsh

The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression has a fundamental misunderstanding of college education, according to College President Larry P. Arnn in an op-ed titled “There’s More to Education Than Free Speech.”

“I wrote the piece to assert what education is,” Arnn told The Collegian. “FIRE seems like most activists: they want to do education policy, which is not the same thing as education.”

FIRE is a nonprofit advocacy group “dedicated to defending free speech rights across the country,” particularly on college campuses, according to its Director of Policy Reform Laura Beltz. When FIRE released its 2024 College Free Speech rankings earlier this year, it labeled Hillsdale College a “warning” school. Arnn addressed this in his op-ed, published in The Wall Street Journal on Oct. 19.

“A college’s purpose isn’t merely to encourage speech,” Arnn wrote. “A college’s purpose, through speaking and thinking — the two go together — is to teach students to think and speak better in search of knowledge.”