The Foundation for Individual Independent Rights in Education (FIRE), an independent non-profit think tank and legal foundation that aims to defend college students’ right to free speech, recently revised Claremont McKenna College’s free speech rating from a “Red Light” to a “Yellow Light” rating.
FIRE’s rankings range from “Red Light,” which means that “at least one policy [at the university]…both clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech,” to “Green Light,” which means a university’s speech codes pose “no serious threats to free speech.”
FIRE determines its speech ratings based on a school’s harassment, posting, Internet usage, and free expression policies. CMC’s “Yellow Light” rating means the school has “some policies that could ban or excessively regulate protected speech.” FIRE takes issue with CMC’s harassment, posting, and Internet usage policies and their relation to CMC’s administration.
Specifically, FIRE finds CMC’s requirement that posters be approved by the Dean of Students Office, the ban on using CMC’s network resources to create, store, or transmit materials that are against college policy, and the ban on creating images that could be subjectively deemed offensive to be worthy of a “Yellow Light.”
CMC’s “Yellow Light” ranking is a change from previous years; CMC previously received a “Red Light” due to its policies on email messages. FIRE took issue with CMC’s old policy that banned email messages containing materials that could be seen as harassment of another student for his or her religious or political beliefs. FIRE claimed that the policy was unfair due to the subjective nature of the evaluation, as well as its potential violation of the First Amendment. When CMC revised its policy to only include material “that might contribute to the creation of a hostile academic or work environment,” FIRE moved CMC into the “Yellow Light” category.
CMC’s “Yellow Light” ranking is on par with all of the other Claremont Colleges.
By contrast, the vast majority of colleges and universities nationwide, public and private alike, receive “Red Lights” for their speech codes. Only sixteen academic institutions receive “Green Lights,” of which none are liberal arts colleges.