FIRE ends year with plea for more free speech on private campuses

FIRE ends year with plea for more free speech on private campuses

FIRE ends year with plea for more free speech on private campuses

An education watchdog and free-speech advocate is ending the year calling out Tufts University over its promise to promote and protect First Amendment rights on campus.

FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, has released its end-of-year “Spotlight on Speech Codes” report that rates free speech at 481 college and universities. According to FIRE, it is the storied private institutions across the country that habitually block free speech on campus, and one of those is Tufts, a historic school home to 12,000 students in Medford, Massachusetts.  

Laura Beltz of FIRE tells AFN a whopping 96% of private universities have policies FIRE considers free speech problems. On the campus of Tufts, she says, the university says it is keeping commercial speech off campus but that policy is much too broad.

Hence the pushback from FIRE.

"This policy is so broad that it includes also noncommercial solicitation,” Beltz says. “And it specifically mentions political leafleting, and that certainly isn't commercial. So the policy needs to regulate this area more narrowly."

Beltz, Laura (FIRE) Beltz

Tufts also requires students obtain advance permission before engaging in any solicitation, a policy that is standard on many campuses that police student activity but a policy that FIRE opposes.

FIRE and Belz point out Tufts has posted a “Declaration of Freedom of Express” on the university website that that’s “freedom of expression” is “fundamental to the academic enterprise.”

Yet right-leaning students on the campus of Tufts, and on virtually all other campuses, know how far-left students and administrators view their worldview, political beliefs, and voting habits. 

"When they make these promises in official policies to students, saying they will uphold free speech rights,” Belz says, “students have a reasonable expectation that that will follow First Amendment standards.”