FSU curbstomps UF in college free speech rankings

by | Sep 18, 2023



  • FSU scored very well for free speech nationally, while the school’s main rival, UF, fared extremely poorly, near the bottom of the national list.
  • There was little middle ground for the six Florida schools that were measured: three scored in the top 50, while three more scored in the bottom 50.
  • Harvard University ranked worst nationally due to an excessive number of campus incidents resulting in “deplatforming.” 

It may not carry the same glory or glamor as a victory on the football field against their biggest rival, but Florida State last week managed to trounce the University of Florida in a completely different arena: free speech. While the two schools didn’t exactly compete head-to-head, they were measured in one of the largest college campus free speech surveys ever, and the results couldn’t be more starkly different.

As the nation grapples with questions about free speech on college campuses and elsewhere, and the Florida media wrestles with how to cover the subject with honesty and integrity, a sweeping new survey of college campuses across the United States revealed startling disparities in how schools performed in terms of freedom of expression. Florida schools, in particular, have seen a mixed performance, with some garnering top rankings while others lag embarrassingly behind.

Last week, the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) and College Pulse released their fourth annual College Free Speech Rankings. The survey, which is the largest of its kind, assessed the free speech climates at 248 American colleges and universities, ranking them from best to worst.

Among Florida schools, Florida State University (FSU) stood out, placing 5th nationally. The University of South Florida (USF) also had a strong showing, ranking 12th, and Florida International University (FIU) scored a respectable 46th in the nation. However, the news was not so positive for all Sunshine State institutions. The University of Miami, University of Florida (UF), and University of Central Florida (UCF) performed poorly, ranking 205th, 231st, and 235th, respectively, near the bottom of the 246 schools ranked in the survey.

While FSU and USF, and FIU should celebrate their high standings, the bottom-tier Florida colleges should face scrutiny over their poor performance. As debates about academic freedom and the First Amendment continue to heat up, these results offer crucial insight into how well different campuses are fostering an environment conducive to free expression.

Nationally, Michigan Technological University topped the overall list, followed by Auburn University and the University of New Hampshire. At the other end of the spectrum, Harvard University ranked dead last. And then there is Oberlin College, which made headlines for the fact that only slightly more than half of its students believe it’s never acceptable to use violence to silence a campus speaker.

The report also highlighted that deplatforming attempts at the five lowest-ranked schools had an alarming 81% success rate, raising questions about the suppression of different viewpoints. Self-censorship among students was another key concern, with more than a quarter admitting they self-censor in conversations with friends.

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