Alcorn reforms speech codes, earns highest free speech rating from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE)
Alcorn State University eliminated or revised all of its speech policies that conflict with the First Amendment, becoming the fifth institution in Mississippi to earn the highest, “green light” rating from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a national free speech organization. Mississippi is now home to more green light schools than any other state except North Carolina.
Only 50 other colleges around the country earn an overall green light rating in FIRE’s Spotlight database. FIRE rates more than 460 colleges nationwide to determine whether their policies restrict speech that is protected by the Constitution. Almost 90% of colleges maintain policies that restrict and chill protected expression.
“Alcorn State’s policy changes indicate that they are serious about protecting students’ constitutional rights,” said FIRE Senior Program Officer Laura Beltz. “At a time when free speech is threatened at campuses across the country, Alcorn State’s students can take pride in knowing their school stands out in protecting free speech rights.”
Alcorn State revised five policies, working in collaboration with FIRE, to earn the top rating. Changes included a revision to the university’s free speech and assembly policy to remove a 48-hour registration requirement before demonstrations and the implementation of a cyberbullying policy that meets the Supreme Court’s definition of student-on-student harassment.
“Alcorn State University is strongly committed to promoting a vibrant campus environment where the principles of academic freedom, freedom of expression and rigorous debate flourishes,” said Alcorn Vice President for Student Affairs Tracy Cook. “We are thankful to FIRE for their collaborative assistance in reaffirming the university’s efforts to foster a campus community where the pursuit of knowledge is fairly balanced with protecting freedom of speech and assembly.”
Students at four other institutions in Mississippi enjoy FIRE’s highest rating: Delta State University, Mississippi State University, the University of Mississippi, and the University of Southern Mississippi. The green light distinction is currently held by only 51 institutions across the country, which have a combined student enrollment of over 1 million.
Alcorn State is the second historically black college, along with North Carolina Central University, to earn the rating.
Public universities like Alcorn State are legally bound by the First Amendment, while private institutions are bound by promises of free speech found in their official policies.
To learn more about the state of free speech on college campuses around the country, see FIRE’s “Spotlight on Speech Codes 2019” report.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to defending and sustaining the individual rights of students and faculty members at America’s colleges and universities. These rights include freedom of speech, freedom of association, due process, legal equality, religious liberty, and sanctity of conscience — the essential qualities of liberty.
As the oldest, comprehensive land-grant Historically Black College and University (HBCU) in America, Alcorn State University’s mission is to develop diverse students into globally competitive leaders by applying scientific research and technology through collaborative partnerships that benefit the surrounding communities, states, nation, and world.
Daniel Burnett, Assistant Director of Communications, FIRE: 215-717-3473; [email protected]
Marcus Ward, Vice President for Institutional Advancement, Alcorn State University: 601-877-6296; [email protected]