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Trib editorial: A free-speech report card

| Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018, 9:00 p.m.
Demonstrators clash during a free-speech rally last August in Berkeley, Calif.  (AP Photo | Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Demonstrators clash during a free-speech rally last August in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo | Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Free speech made incremental progress last year at the nation's largest colleges and universities, according to a nonpartisan group's annual report. But the free exchange of ideas at America's most prestigious schools still has a long way to go.

“Spotlight on Speech Codes 2018: The State of Free Speech on Our Nation's Campuses,” compiled by the nonprofit Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), surveyed 461 institutions of higher learning. It found that free speech — which the Framers underscored in the Constitution's First Amendment — is seriously lacking in 32.3 percent of the institutions surveyed, which received FIRE's lowest “red” rating. That's down only 7 points from the previous year.

And only 37 schools received FIRE's highest free-speech rating.

Speech is hardly “free” when it's limited on college campuses to areas not much larger than a parking space. FIRE's Samantha Harris says college-shopping students and parents should consider colleges' free-speech policies just as they would consider such things as student/faculty ratios.

Restricting the free exchange of ideas on college campuses is not a pathway to higher education — it's the offramp to indoctrination and intolerance.

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