Colleges, universities feature prominently in the top 10 worst censors of 2024

In four of the six spots, multiple institutions or entire university systems were condemned.

Once a year, the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), a nonprofit civil advocacy group focused on protecting the First Amendment, names and shames the entities it believes were the most notorious for hurting freedom of expression. Unfortunately for higher education, FIRE didn’t pull any punches in naming which institutions were at serious fault in its latest list.

In six of the 10 spots, FIRE flagged at least one college or university for chilling faculty speech, impeding the rights of LGBTQ+ persons and a slew of other agressions. In four of the six spots, multiple institutions or entire university systems were condemned. Additionally, in one bonus spot, Harvard University earned the “Lifetime Censorship Award” for targeting The New York Post after the publication helped break the news on the former president’s plagiarism in her dissertation.

This isn’t the first time the First Amendment watchdog group targeted the Ivy League. In September, it ranked Harvard last in a free speech ranking that analyzed 250 universities due to professors’ being liable to self-censorship and students’ feeling uncomfortable expressing their views on campus.

Here are the other colleges and universities to make the list, placed in no particular order.

Mayo Clinic College of Medical Science (Minn.)

The elite postgraduate medical research institutions suspended a faculty member for expressing his views on COVID-19, public health, and sex differences in sports performance across multiple publications that the university believed “reflect[ed] poorly on Mayo Clinic’s brand and reputation.” The college demanded he speak only on “approved topics and stick to prescribed messaging.”

San Francisco State University

FIRE highlighted two instances related to the California institution that occurred last year.

First, administrators investigated a professor for displaying an image of the Prophet Muhammad in a history lesson based on the Islamic world. Secondly, Olympic swimmer Riley Gaines was chased off campus after appearing as a guest speaker to discuss her opinions about women’s sports and gender identities.

Hypocritical university admins

Brandies University, The University of Southern California and all three university leaders present at the Congressional hearing on antisemitism in December were grouped together by FIRE for failing to remediate student conduct surrounding the Israel-Hamas war.

California Community Colleges

The community college system forced more than 50,000 professors to teach a narrow view of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

“The mandated view includes the ‘anti-racist’ opinion that ‘persons that say they are not a racist are in denial’ or that ‘color-blindness’—that is, ‘treating individuals as equally as possible, without regard to race, culture, or ethnicity’—only ‘perpetuates existing racial inequities and denies systematic racism,'” wrote FIRE.

Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel is a UB staff writer and first-generation journalism graduate from the University of Florida. His beats have ranged from Gainesville's city development, music scene and regional little league sports divisions. He has triple citizenship from the U.S., Ecuador and Brazil.

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