STUDY: 98% of MI students attend a university that does not respect free speech

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education conducted a study that analyzed the state of free speech at higher-education institutions in Michigan.

Campus Reform features FIRE's speech code ratings in its Campus Profile series.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) recently conducted a study on the state of free speech across 26 colleges and universities in the state of Michigan.

The study, “State of the Speech Codes,” found that just 2% of students attend a university/college that has written policies in place to ensure student free speech is respected and protected.

FIRE classified each higher-education institution into a speech code category: Green Light, Yellow Light, Red Light, and Warning Rating.

Campus Reform features FIRE’s speech code ratings in its Campus Profile series, which evaluate individual American college campuses based on liberal bias, freedom of speech, and other relevant policies and factors.

Over one-fourth of the universities in the study received a Red Light rating, indicating that those institutions have imposed at least one policy that clearly contradicts the First Amendment right to freedom of speech. 

The universities that received a Red Light rating include Aquinas College, Davenport University, Grand Rapids Community College, Lake Superior State University, Muskegon Community College, Oakland University, and Western Michigan University.

Meanwhile, only one institution was granted a Green Light rating: Michigan Technological University.

Universities that received a Green Light rating do not have campus policies that “seriously threaten campus expression.”

[RELATED: WATCH: ADF Senior Counsel breaks down Indiana Free Speech Bill]

Universities that received a Yellow Light rating were found to have policies that could be “interpreted to suppress protected speech” or “restrict relatively narrow categories of speech.”

Red Light ratings were given to universities that have at least one policy that “both clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech, or bars public access to its speech-related policies by requiring a university login and password for access.”

Warning Ratings were assigned to private universities that “clearly and consistently” state that they hold a “certain set of values above a commitment to freedom of speech.”

“I haven’t seen explicit instances of the school administration curbing the free speech of students, BUT the culture that they cultivate ensures that the student body knows that offensive speech will be met with severe social and academic consequences,” University of Michigan student Caleb Estel told Campus Reform. 

Estell stated that he has stopped himself from saying what’s on his mind on numerous occasions due to fear of retaliation on campus.

[RELATED: Have you or a loved one been ‘affected’ by ‘free speech?’ Colorado State University has resources to help.]

“The student body at large is also partly responsible for this culture since social consequences predominantly come from students as opposed to teachers and admin,” he said.

FIRE policy Reform Program Officer Ryan Ansloan spoke with Campus Reform about the study

“First and foremost, [universities] must commit to revising restrictive speech codes,” Ansloan said. “More than three-in-four Michigan schools in the report have policies that may pose a threat to the ability of students to engage in free expression on campus.”

Ansloan also listed recommendations for how college administrators can utilize resources to improve free speech commitments.

“They can join 83 other institutions in adopting a clear commitment to the principles of free speech like the Chicago Statement. They can teach free speech in freshman orientations and first-year programming so that students understand the importance of free speech from the moment they set foot on campus,” he said.

“We invite schools, students, and faculty to work with FIRE to help improve the state of free speech on their campus, Ansloan concluded.

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