Quinnipiac in the ‘Red’
Published: Monday, September 17, 2012
Updated: Monday, September 17, 2012 16:09
No, it’s not financial: Quinnipiac University is in the red for its speech codes on campus.
FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, rates about 400 colleges nationwide annually. Ranking them as a red, a yellow, or a green light school based on their policies’ impact on student speech, but not necessarily based on specific allegations of censorship.
Quinnipiac University, ranked as a red light school, has been cited as such due to what FIRE refers to as “restrictions on expressive rights.”
On Sept. 5, FIRE released its second annual list of America’s Best Colleges for Free Speech: 2012 on The Huffington Post.
“Ofcourse there's no perfect algorithm to determine with exact certainty which college is the best for student speech,” said FIRE president Greg Lukianoff in The Huffington Post. “Instead, our list is populated by colleges that one, have earned a green light from FIRE, meaning that their policies as written do not pose a serious threat to free speech on campus and two, to our knowledge, have not committed a serious incident of censorship in the past several years.”
Quinnipiac University’s Peer Group, a list that serves as a guide for comparisons in admissions, athletics, fundraising, academic standing, public affairs and Institutional Scorecard, includes both private and public institutions, which Quinnipiac competes with as peers. Like Quinnipiac, many of these schools also have a law school and/or medical school. Of these 20 other schools within the Peer Group, one of them was not yet rated by FIRE’s system, three were not at all listed as having been considered, six were considered yellow and 10 were considered to be red.
The attorneys at FIRE that decide what category these schools fall into have determined that a red light institution has “at least one policy that both clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech” and “unambiguously infringes on what is or should be protected expression.”
None of the schools on these two lists showed any overlap, though, as in the Peer Group, FIRE’s list also contains public and private institutions, and among the ten red-light schools within Quinnipiac’s Peer Group, five are private universities and five are public.
According to the FIRE website, Quinnipiac’s red light is partly attributed to its restrictive policies and procedures regarding harassment and abuse, as well as its policies about internet usage.
One private school comparable to Quinnipiac, and included within the Peer Group, is American University, also cited for its policies on harassment and internet usage. However, the university also notes advertised commitment to free speech, stating explicitly in the university policies that “Freedom of expression and dissent is protected by university policy for all members of the university community.”
This policy, along with FIRE’s list, shows that private universities possess the capability to support free expression on campus. However, Syracuse University, another private school in Quinnipiac’s Peer Group that earned a red light from FIRE, was featured as one of the 12 Worst Colleges for Free Speech in 2012.
“Given that general counsels of universities talk to each other, and that many policies apply throughout a state's entire public university system, it should probably be no surprise that some states have good policies with regard to free speech, while others don't,” Lukianoff said. “The good news is sometimes just one school's decision to repeal outdated and unlawful speech codes can trigger change across an entire state.”