We Took a Look at Ivy League Speech Codes… It Doesn’t Look Great

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The Ivy League schools are some of the most prestigious schools in the world. For the class of 2021, 281,060 applications were received by the Ivy League schools. From these applicants, only 22,805 were accepted. That is an acceptance rate of about 8%.

Furthermore, according to Forbes Magazine, half of all the Supreme Court Justices and about one third of all U.S. Presidents attended an Ivy Leagues school. On top of that, business leaders like Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, and Lowell C. McAdam, CEO of Verizon, also attended Ivy League schools. It is clear that tomorrow’s leaders are being churned at these prestigious universities.

With this in mind, what is the state of free expression and free speech on these campuses? Is there a boisterous exchange of ideas on campus or do these campuses keep their students under strict scrutiny? To answer this question, we turned to the Foundation of Individual rights in Education (FIRE), an organization that is on the front lines of defending free speech and due process on campuses today. FIRE not only brings lawsuits to schools infringing on the rights of students, but provides a nifty spotlight database that rates schools based on their speech codes. With this spotlight, they have four ratings:

  • Red – school has codes that clearly restrict free speech
  • Yellow – school has codes that could be used to restrict free speech due to vague wording.
  • Green – no policies known to restrict free speech
  • Warning – school does not promise free speech (in the cases of private schools)

It is important to keep in mind that all the Ivy League schools are private schools, and they do not have an obligation to uphold the first amendment or constitutional rulings on their campus. However, many of the Ivy League schools promise free speech. If free and open exchange is promised, it should be provided.

Unfortunately, free speech is not looking great at Ivy League institutions. Half of them have yellow ratings, three have red ratings, and only one of them has a green rating. Is free speech in danger at the world’s most prestigious institutions?

1. Cornell University – Yellow

cornell university free speech

What are they doing wrong?

2. Harvard University – Red

Harvard university free speech

What are they doing wrong?

3. Dartmouth College – Red

dartmout college free speech

What are they doing wrong?

4. Brown University – Yellow

brown university free speech

What are they doing wrong?

Also, check out We The Internet’s great documentary on free speech at Brown University.

5. Yale University – Yellow

yale university free speech

What are they doing wrong?

We The Internet also has a documentary on free speech at Yale.

6. Columbia University – Yellow

columbia university free speech

What are they doing wrong?

7. Princeton University – Red

princeton university free speech

What are they doing wrong?

8. University of Pennsylvania – Green

university of pennsylvania free speech

It looks like Penn is the only school that gets it right according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education! Perhaps this shouldn’t be surprising as Penn is in the same city as FIRE’s headquarters.

If you are a student that wants to make a difference at the Ivy League schools or any campus and you think your school has improper speech codes, submit a case to FIRE. Furthermore, Students For Liberty has many resources that can help you take up the torch of liberty on campus. If you think you have what it takes to fight for freedom, join the Campus Coordinator Program.

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