Report: America’s top 25 liberal arts colleges restrict free speech

Sterling Beard
Director of Journalism Training

  • ACTA reports that fourteen of the top schools were given a “Red Light” freedom of speech rating.
  • None of the schools, which included private and public institutions, received a “Green Light” rating for free speech.
  • The nation’s top 25 liberal arts colleges all imperil free speech according to a study released Monday by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA).

    ACTA’s report, “Education or Reputation? A Look at America’s Top-Ranked Liberal Arts Colleges,” examines the country’s top twenty-five liberal arts schools—as ranked by U.S. News and World Report—on many topics, including tuition and general education requirements.

    "The fourth school is Vassar College, which explicitly states in its faculty and student handbooks that it prizes civility over freedom of speech."   

    ACTA reports that fourteen of the top schools were given a “Red Light” freedom of speech rating by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) because they have “at least one policy that clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech.”

    An additional eleven schools have a “Yellow Light” rating because their policies “restrict a limited amount of protected expression or could too easily be used to restrict protected expression,” the report states.

    None of the schools, which included private and public institutions, received a “Green Light” rating from FIRE, which signifies that a school’s policies do not imperil free speech.

    Because of several ties, U.S. News and World Report actually lists 29 schools in its top 25. However, three of these schools are the military service academies, which FIRE does not rank because the U.S. Supreme Court has held that the armed forces are not held to the same freedom of speech standard that “is required of the civilian state by the First Amendment.”

    The fourth school is Vassar College, which explicitly states in its faculty and student handbooks that it prizes civility over freedom of speech.

    Follow the author of this article on Twitter @SterlingCBeard





    Sterling Beard

    Sterling Beard

    Director of Journalism Training
    Sterling Beard is Campus Reform's Director of Journalism Training. Prior to joining Campus Reform, he spent time as an editorial associate for National Review Online and as a staff writer at The Hill, where he served as the Intercollegiate Studies Institute's Lyn Nofziger Fellow and regularly appeared across the country on Fox News Radio to provide analysis of current events. In 2017, Sterling was named to The Chronicle of Higher Education's Influence List, one of nine people who "affected federal policy, campus culture, and the national conversation about education in 2017 — and who are likely to remain influential in the year ahead."
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