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Progress has been made on college campuses, but free speech is still threatened, report says

By in Press Enterprise on December 24, 2017

By Roxana Kopetman

Free speech is endangered on college campuses nationwide, but for the 10th straight year the number of campuses with the most-restrictive policies declined, says a report released this week by a nonprofit.

Overall, California campuses have less-restrictive policies when compared with schools nationwide.

According to Philadelphia-based Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE, 32 percent of the 461 colleges and universities surveyed maintain “severely restrictive” speech codes.

By comparison, 14 percent of the California schools surveyed were that restrictive, said Samantha Harris, FIRE vice president of policy research.

Overall, more than 90 percent of the universities surveyed maintain at least one policy that restricts protected speech or has a policy that is vague and could be interpreted as stomping on free speech rights, the report says.

Most University of California, Cal State University and private college campuses surveyed received a “yellow light rating,” meaning they have policies that could be interpreted to suppress protected speech and have a chilling effect on free speech.

In California, those that received the lowest “red light rating” — with at least one policy that “clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech” — include UC Riverside and several Cal State campuses, including Cal State Long Beach.

Restrictions on free speech can come in many forms, including policies that address harassment, bias and hate speech, bullying, protests and Internet usage, according to FIRE.

FIRE determined that UC Riverside and Cal State Long Beach have overly broad sexual harassment policies. But a UCR spokesman said FIRE used outdated information.

“We revised our policy earlier this year,” spokesman Richard Chang said.

Only 37 universities nationwide received the organization’s top “green” ranking for policies that “do not seriously imperil speech.”

None were in California.

Most Inland universities, such as Cal Poly Pomona and Cal State San Bernardino, received a “yellow light rating.”

“We at Cal Poly Pomona encourage free speech and […]    

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