The Corner


How One University Earned a ‘Green Light’ Rating from FIRE

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) does superb work in identifying and battling against policies that impinge upon the rights of students and faculty members. The issue that comes up most often is free speech. FIRE has a rating system (red light meaning significant interference with free speech, yellow light meaning some interference, and green light meaning that the school hardly interferes) for colleges and universities.

In today’s Martin Center article, Jenna Robinson discusses the ten year process of getting North Carolina State to green light. It required two committed faculty members in association with FIRE’s legal experts.

What changed? Robinson writes:

According to Azhar Majeed of FIRE, the policies that were revised prior to NC State earning its green light included two computer use policies, a provision in the Community Standards of residence halls which gave students the right to be free from “emotional harm,” a Use of University Space policy which was unclear about students’ right to engage in spontaneous campus expressive activity, and the university’s Bias Impact Response policy.

And yet, NC State hasn’t gone as far as it should. One of the faculty members involved, political science professor Andrew Taylor, explains:

NC State has stopped short of enthusiastically embracing free speech…I’ve suggested we adopt the Chicago Principles and a resolution supporting viewpoint diversity to Faculty Senators who represent me and a former head of the university’s Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity. They were not interested. Many faculty and students are worryingly disengaged or extremely blasé about the matter. Among others, there is a kind of latent hostility to the idea of free speech—possibly because these individuals think of it as protection for minority or conservative perspectives on campus, possibly because they have bought into the trope that the First Amendment is a trojan horse for racist speech.

Taylor’s phrase about latent hostility to the idea of free speech is right on target, unfortunately. Many faculty members across the country buy the notion that free speech is somehow unfair to the leftist concepts they believe in. Still, it is good to remove the institutional impediments to free speech, as NC State has done.

George Leef is the director of research for the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

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