A free speech red-light district
Report gives bad marks on free speech policies to local colleges
By Jake Armstrong 01/13/2011
Education officials threw a group of Monrovia High School theater students for a loop — and free speech advocates into a tizzy — last month when they put the kibosh on a planned performance of the play “Rent.”
But students who hope the coming college life may once and for all end such struggles against censorship may not fare much better at Caltech, Occidental College and 31 other universities in California, according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s annual report on free-speech policies in the nation’s universities.
In the organization’s traffic light-like rating system, Caltech — home to 32 Nobel prizes — was tagged with a “Red Light” for having at least one policy “clearly and substantially restricting freedom of speech” or barring unfettered online access to its speech-related policies.
The report gave Occidental College a “Yellow Light,” meaning it has a “substantial restriction on free speech” that widely applies to campus expression. A policy against abusive language could trigger that rating, according to the report.
Cal State LA, Cal State Long Beach and UC Riverside were among other local colleges that were flagged with a red light.
Perhaps not surprisingly, if the report is to be believed, representatives for Caltech and Occidental did not return calls for comment on the free speech ratings assigned to their schools.