The Ten Worst Colleges for Free Speech (But Why Are There Any?)

George Leef

Just how bad colleges have become when it comes to free speech and toleration for anyone who disagrees with those who hold power cannot be underestimated. Many Americans who think back fondly on their college days decades ago are shocked to learn the truth.

Toward that end, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has just released its Top Ten list—the worst colleges and universities in the country last year when it came to freedom of speech.

Introducing the list, FIRE’s president Greg Lukianoff writes, “The past year will be remembered as the year that freedom of speech (or the lack thereof) on U.S. campuses became international news. Even President Obama felt compelled to comment on the issue three separate times.”

What we learn from these cases is that almost everyone affiliated with higher education these days must tread very carefully to avoid trouble with the people who feel empowered to control speech.

After looking at the schools that made FIRE’s rogues gallery, I’ll offer some thoughts on the reasons behind the collapse of support for free speech.

Top “honors” went to Mount St. Mary’s University in Maryland, recently thrown into turmoil by president Simon Newman’s firing of two faculty members who criticized his idea that the school should reduce its freshman class by “drowning some of the bunnies” (i.e., culling out academically weak students). Whether the president’s concept was good or bad, firing people for criticizing it is the worst way for an educational leader to react.