The Crimson Tide of the University of Alabama and the Tigers of Clemson University will battle on the football field on January 11th to become college football’s national champion. A new report from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) finds that these two schools are not national championship material when it comes to free speech rights. The University of Alabama and Clemson University each earned “red light” rankings on the issue of free speech.
FIRE found the University of Alabama has numerous policies restricting free speech on its main campus in Tuscaloosa. Policies on harassment and community living in residence halls are a major reason it earned the red-light ranking. Alabama also received low marks for imposing restrictions on where students can assemble peacefully, Internet usage, and language in printed materials. The University of Alabama has earned a notorious reputation for restricting free speech rights over the past decade, due in part to its disparate treatment of conservative groups, along with speech codes written with overly broad language. The Crimson Tide may be stingy with its defense on the football field, but university administrators are stingy on what types of speech can be said on campus in Tuscaloosa.
Clemson University may come into the national championship game ranked number one, but they earned a dismal ranking on free speech rights. FIRE found that Clemson earned a red light rating because of its anti-harassment and non-discrimination policies. Clemson also was at the center of a free-speech-zone scandal in which administrators targeted a conservative group who assembled a protest outside of a free speech zone in 2006.
When looking at the rest of the top 10 schools ranked in the College Football Playoff (CFP) standings, Florida State, Notre Dame, and Ohio State earned red light rankings, while Iowa, Michigan State, Oklahoma, and Stanford earned “yellow light” rankings. The only CFP school in the top 10 that received a “green light” ranking is North Carolina.