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FIRE Ratings

SerenityJadeSerenityJade 1204 replies22 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,226 Senior Member
edited November 2012 in College Search & Selection
If anybody has heard of Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), they know that it's an organization that pretty much speaks up for those who have their freedom of speech oppressed on college campuses. I was looking at the site and found their rating system and decided to look up some of the more "popular" schools (mostly the Ivies that people here are obsessed with) and found that...

Just imagine a stoplight...

Stanford has a rating of yellow
Harvard has a rating of red
Yale has a rating of yellow
Princeton has a rating of red
MIT has a rating of yellow
Caltech has a rating of red
Amherst College has a rating of yellow
UMass - Amherst has a rating of red
UTexas - Austin has a rating of red
Johns Hopkins has a rating of red
Cornell has a rating of red
Columbia has a rating of red
Brown has a rating of red
UPenn has a rating of GREEN
Dartmouth has a rating of GREEN

That was just an order of colleges that came to my head as I was going through...

Now, I want to be clear here that I didn't go through the reasons why each of these are given the rating they are.

I just found this interesting and wanted to see if anyone else might be surprised by some of these rankings...


Welcome to FIRE?s Spotlight - The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education - FIRE
edited November 2012
20 replies
Post edited by SerenityJade on
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Replies to: FIRE Ratings

  • invasioninvasion 54 replies1 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 55 Junior Member
    This is hilarious. Please don't tell me that you take this as a serious civil rights organization, because it seems to me that it's just another far-right fringe group that happens to have a better-designed website than most.

    Harvard and Princeton are penalized because they have stricter policies on sexual and racial harassment than Penn. Naturally, they are worse universities, right? None of the yellow/red schools are rated poor because of any actual oppression. No one is being told they can't speak out against the administration, or hold protests for a political cause, or anything like that.
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  • runallday4runallday4 597 replies116 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 713 Member
    This is dumb. A lot of the schools in red are only red because they forbid students from using campus resources to "haze, harass, or stalk" over people...
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  • SerenityJadeSerenityJade 1204 replies22 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,226 Senior Member
    1) I thought it was interesting and funny
    2) I severely doubt the organization is far right
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  • IvytIvyt 3497 replies33 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 3,530 Senior Member
    Yea if it was far right it wouldn't have given TAMU a red rating
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  • WordworkerWordworker 869 replies0 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 869 Member
    Two professors started this after a student at Penn got into trouble for calling a group of noisy young women "water buffalo." There was a big ruckus, and Alan Kors defended the student with help from his college friend who had become a law school professor elsewhere. He also took leadership when Penn subsequently rewrote its speech code (maybe why Penn has a green light now).

    Alan teaches history at Penn and has for about 40 years. I took several classes with him and found him to be a terrific teacher who always was fair.

    Certainly there is room in the world for a ranking system like this. How useful it is to a student picking a college, though, is unclear.
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  • SerenityJadeSerenityJade 1204 replies22 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,226 Senior Member
    I would never say someone should delete a school from their list for their FIRE Spotlight rating however it does show why the schools are rated that way and that is interesting. I looked up the school I want to go to and it has a red rating for a code in its handbook saying demonstrations must be registered five days in advance and be in a certain area of campus as to not restrict other students' access to their classes. I guess this is a restrictive policy but looking at the nature of the school, I would suspect it has just never been questioned.
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  • dodgersmomdodgersmom 6467 replies846 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 7,313 Senior Member
    Most of these policies have never been questioned.

    But because of their vagueness, they can be applied in a discretionary fashion . . . meaning that if the administration wants to get rid of a particular student (or teacher), there's a way to do it. And there's really no way to anticipate how or when one of these policies will be used against someone. I mean, really - if there's a school rule against "using language that might offend someone." how in the world is one supposed to predict what language might or might not violate that rule?

    And I tend to agree - this is probably not something that most students would consider in choosing a college. As a parent, though, it's something I would definitely be concerned about. At a "red light" school, using the wrong words or voicing the wrong opinion can have significant consequences.

    I am amazed that protecting free speech rights is now viewed as something that only a "far-right fringe group" would take an interest in.
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  • HarvestMoon1HarvestMoon1 6200 replies28 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 6,228 Senior Member
    The erosion of free speech in this country is nothing short of shocking to someone who "came of age" in the late 60's and early 70's. I am truly saddened and angered to observe the suppression of what used to be a guaranteed right in this country.
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  • SerenityJadeSerenityJade 1204 replies22 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,226 Senior Member
    I learned of FIRE from Penn & Teller's ******** episode about college as an organization they supported and were commending and agreeing with...Anybody who knows anything about Penn Jillette's political views knows he would not be likely to support a "far right fringe group"...
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  • annasdadannasdad 4677 replies150 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 4,827 Senior Member
    Some of the public colleges' codes are vague and probably would not hold up were they challenged on First Amendment grounds. Private schools, of course, need not worry about that.

    And it's a strange argument indeed to claim that an organization advocating freedom of speech is a right-wing fringe group.
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  • invasioninvasion 54 replies1 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 55 Junior Member
    I am amazed that protecting free speech rights is now viewed as something that only a "far-right fringe group" would take an interest in.
    Fine, maybe I should have said "libertarian fringe group" then.

    Let me ask everyone a question, then: which group is usually associated with political correctness and defending women, minorities, etc.? Because these are essentially the policies that this website is rallying against.
    At a "red light" school, using the wrong words or voicing the wrong opinion can have significant consequences.
    ...as it should, especially if you sexually harass someone, or use racial epithets.
    The erosion of free speech in this country is nothing short of shocking to someone who "came of age" in the late 60's and early 70's.
    Let me guess... are you white? And male? And straight?

    Do you think Harvard and Princeton, both of which have red ratings, would have anything against a student demonstration in support of gay rights, or a protest against the War on Terror? Which rights, exactly, do you feel are being suppressed by these institutions? The right to call a woman a w***e and a gay person a f*g?
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  • annasdadannasdad 4677 replies150 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 4,827 Senior Member
    How about a student demonstration against gay rights? Or in favor of terrorism? Or opposed to affirmative action?

    IMO, all those positions are despicable. But they would all be protected speech if done at a public university, regardless of any policies to the contrary. And, I would argue, that a private school that prides itself on fostering the free exchange of ideas has no business censoring speech just because some - even a large majority - find offensive.

    There was a time in this country when speech that most now would find perfectly acceptable, even commendable, was censored. The post office refused to deliver The Liberator, William Lloyd Garrison's abolitionist newspaper, to slave states on the grounds it was offensive and incendiary. Those who would today censor speech are operating in that same disgraceful tradition.

    If someone's speech offends you, counter it with speech of your own. That's the way things are supposed to work in a democracy.
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  • invasioninvasion 54 replies1 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 55 Junior Member
    Yeah, let's let the KKK hold rallies at our universities, too!

    You're drawing a huge false equivalency. Holding a pro-LGBT rally is not offensive to students; it doesn't make anyone feel personally victimized. Even fundamentalist Christians can just ignore it because such a rally is not personally directed at them.

    An anti-gay rally? That's promoting hate speech. It's directly insulting the millions of people who are gay and telling them there is something wrong with them. That's not the same thing as holding a pro-gay rights rally AT ALL.

    There comes a point where completely unrestricted speech becomes a bad thing. And please don't act like there are only two options: 1) completely unrestricted free speech and 2) oppression. No, the issue is more complex than that.
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  • BlckmgcBlckmgc 83 replies5 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 88 Junior Member
    So you would permit a pro-LGBT rally and ban an anti-LGBT rally? There are some serious free speech issues with what you are suggesting. See Snyder v. Phelps, 2011.

    Educational institutions have some more leeway in restrictions on speech to preserve a learning environment, but you can't take sides on issues like LGBT rights. Hate speech is LEGAL in the United States. It is unconstitutional to ban hate speech, as established by decades of Supreme Court precedent. If you permit a pro-LGBT rally, you MUST permit an anti-LGBT rally, or yes, even a KKK rally if there are students who hold those white supremacist beliefs, UNLESS the rally incites or promotes specific acts of violence or victimizes specific individuals.

    I support LGBT rights, but I also believe in the Constitution. Hooray for the pro-LGBT rally, but "boo-hoo wah-wah, I feel personally victimized by the GOD HATES FAGS sign?" Please. To paraphrase Justice Brandeis, the solution to speech that is distasteful to you is more speech, not enforcing silence on your opponents.
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  • annasdadannasdad 4677 replies150 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 4,827 Senior Member
    Yes, the courts have ruled that the hate speech of the KKK is constitutionally protected. So a student KKK group has as much right to operate at a public university as does a LGBT advocacy group.

    It may come as a surprise to some, but there are those who consider advocacy of gay rights to be hugely offensive. Should that kind of speech be banned too? Or do you suggest only suppressing that speech that those with the power to make the rules disapprove of?
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  • annasdadannasdad 4677 replies150 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 4,827 Senior Member
    An anti-gay rally? That's promoting hate speech. It's directly insulting the millions of people who are gay and telling them there is something wrong with them.

    Let's take that logic to its conclusion. The remarks of the recent candidate for president that those who voted for his opponent did so only because they wanted government goodies was "insulting the millions of people who voted for the other candidate and telling them there is something wrong with them." Therefore, we should ban the speech of those who supported the election of the candidate who made those offensive remarks - right?
    There comes a point where completely unrestricted speech becomes a bad thing. And please don't act like there are only two options: 1) completely unrestricted free speech and 2) oppression. No, the issue is more complex than that.

    The courts have carved out a narrow band of exceptions to the free speech doctrine, so you are correct. But the policies of many universities would ban speech well within the bounds of constitutionally protected speech.
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  • invasioninvasion 54 replies1 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 55 Junior Member
    Look: just because the government says something, doesn't mean it's automatically the right thing to do. Sure, the constitution gives you the right to be a racist misogynist homophobe. Most top schools don't give you that right. So does that mean these schools should be criticized? Not in my opinion. It's a pretty simplistic view to say that a school is a worse place because they ban certain types of speech.

    If you allow people to spew hateful language - like calling a black person a racial epithet - then you're essentially saying that you would rather protect the racist person's right to free speech than protect the black person's right to not be victimized. Those are some pretty messed up priorities IMO.
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  • BlckmgcBlckmgc 83 replies5 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 88 Junior Member
    You are attacking a straw man. I have already pointed out there are exceptions to free speech. Directing a racial epithet toward a specific person likely constitutes "fighting words" under Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, 1942.

    But if a group of students hold a racist rally? Yes, I would protect their right to free speech. If you feel victimized by a message offensive to you but not directly targeted at you personally, grow a thicker skin. You can ignore the message, why do you feel like you need to legislate a means to silence the other party?

    annasdad is right. When we take your arguments to their logical conclusion, the consequences are scary. If atheists hold a rally (let's say at a college!) saying that the idea of God is a load of crap and that Jesus was a delusional madman and the "Virgin Mary" was a promiscuous broad who simply lied about an affair, you can bet there will be many Christians who will feel deeply offended and insulted to their core. Should we ban the atheist's speech?

    I'm sure you've heard on the news about radical Muslims who have committed violent acts in response to people making fun of Allah or Muhammad. If the college atheist club holds a second rally saying Allah too is a load of crap, it will probably make many people feel deeply, deeply insulted, to their core. Shall we ban that too?

    When you start banning speech based on content, you run the constant risk of casting the net too wide. America has always cherished discourse. College students can learn a great deal and refine their own views by hearing what the other side has to say.
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  • annasdadannasdad 4677 replies150 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 4,827 Senior Member
    > grow a thicker skin

    Or, better yet, use your own free speech rights to show why it is offensive.
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  • BlckmgcBlckmgc 83 replies5 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 88 Junior Member
    ^ in my first post I mentioned Justice Louis Brandeis' famous exhortation to do just that.

    invasion apparently would prefer a nanny state in which freedom of speech is sacrificed to avoid offending anyone.
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