(The Center Square) – Most of Colorado’s public and private universities have restrictive policies or vague regulations on free speech and expression, according to a report from a group that advocates for individual rights.
The state’s institutions of higher learning and a total of 489 universities nationally were rated by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression in the publication, “Spotlight on Speech Codes 2024.”
Approximately 20% of the universities in the report were given a “red light” rating for policies determined to “clearly and substantially restrict free speech,” according to FIRE. In Colorado, Adams State University and Fort Lewis College received “red light” ratings.
More than 65% of the universities rated received a “yellow light” for policies determined to be imposing vague regulations on expression. Colorado had nine schools rated yellow: Colorado College, Colorado School of Mines, Colorado State University, Colorado State University Pueblo, Metropolitan State University of Denver, University of Colorado Denver, University of Denver, University of Northern Colorado, and Western Colorado University.
Approximately 13% of the schools evaluated received a “green light” as their policies were determined to not seriously imperil free expression. The University of Colorado at Boulder and Colorado Mesa University received green ratings.
The report also gave approximately 2% of the schools a “warning rating” as they don’t provide students with any free speech rights.
“While the percentage of green light schools increased this year, this also marks the second year in a row that the percentage of red light schools increased, reversing a 15-year trend of decreasing percentages of red light schools,” the report stated.
According to FIRE, 105 university administrations, university systems or faculty bodies have adopted free speech policy statements similar to University of Chicago’s “Report of the Committee on Freedom of Expression,” or the “Chicago Statement.” In 2015, the University of Chicago published a three-page report outlining its commitment.
“In a word, the University’s fundamental commitment is to the principle that debate or deliberation may not be suppressed because the ideas put forth are thought by some or even by most members of the University community to be offensive, unwise, immoral, or wrong-headed,” according to the statement. “It is for the individual members of the University community, not for the University as an institution, to make those judgments for themselves, and to act on those judgments not by seeking to suppress speech, but by openly and vigorously contesting the ideas that they oppose.”
FIRE encourages all universities to adopt the Chicago Statement.
“Free speech rights benefit everyone on campus, and reaffirm the core purpose of a university – a place for free inquiry, debate, and discourse,” FIRE says on its website. “Whether your goal is to campaign, protest, do research, or simply learn in an environment that promotes open inquiry and the free exchange of ideas, the Chicago Statement will help hold your institution accountable for protecting the free expression rights of students and faculty.”