California colleges struggle in free speech rankings.
The Center Square) – According to national free speech rankings published by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, 59% of California colleges rate from “below average” to “poor,” with only one California college of 27 — California State University, Los Angeles — ranked “above average.”
The survey was conducted from a selected group of 55,102 undergraduates enrolled at 254 four-year degree institutions across the United States drawn from more than 750,000 verified undergraduate students and recent alumni by college opinion research firm College Pulse.
“Each year, the climate on college campuses grows more inhospitable to free speech,” said FIRE Director of Polling and Analytics Sean Stevens in a public statement. “Some of the most prestigious universities in our country have the most repressive administrations. Students should know that a college degree at certain schools may come at the expense of their free speech rights.”
Scores were largely based on students’ comfort expressing ideas, tolerance for liberal speakers, tolerances for conservative speakers, prevalence of disruptive conduct towards speakers, administrative support for free speech amid controversy, on-campus conversation openness regarding political issues. Select actions, such as supporting or disinviting speakers, supporting or sanctioning student groups for speech, or supporting or sanctioning scholars whose speech rights were threatened during controversy, could earn or lose further points.
Coming in at 33 of 254 universities ranked nationwide but first in California, California State University was the only California university to rate as slightly above average, and was followed within California by the University of California, Merced, then Claremont McKenna College. Meanwhile, the worst-rated school in California, the University of California, Davis, ranked 237 nationally, was the one school in the state to receive a “poor” speech rating, and placed 250th for tolerance of disruptive conduct and 221st for tolerance for conservative speakers.
According to FIRE, the University of California, Davis, disinvited two campus speakers between 2019 and 2023. During one cancelation in 2022, administrators canceled a Turning Point USA speaking event when a fight broke out before the event in front of the venue.
Excluded from relative rankings for its bottom-barrel “warning” rating, Pepperdine University was criticized for a speech code that bars speakers from “statements that disparage God, Jesus Christ, or religion; language that demeans and exploits any identities; explicit lyrics; and references to sex, alcohol, and narcotics/drugs,” or using “profanity or tell obscene jokes or stories of any kind whatsoever during the performance.”