Durham, NC — New Hampshire’s flagship public research university has become
the fortieth institution in the country to earn the highest rating for free speech from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). The University of New Hampshire (UNH) revised five speech codes, including a demonstration policy and a posting policy, to earn FIRE’s “green light” rating, signifying that the university’s written policies do not imperil free speech.
“Students and faculty at the ‘Live Free or Die’ state’s flagship university should be proud to know that their school’s speech policies fall in line with their state’s motto,” said FIRE Vice President of Policy Reform Azhar Majeed. “We are pleased to recognize UNH’s leaders for taking this important step not only to become the fortieth institution in the country to earn FIRE’s highest speech rating but also to cultivate a campus climate of free inquiry.”
UNH joins 39 other institutions nationwide — including one other New Hampshire institution, Plymouth State University — in earning a green light rating from FIRE. The university also becomes the third institution to earn a green light rating this year, joining Auburn University and Claremont McKenna College. FIRE maintains an interactive national database rating universities on speech regulations.
“Universities should be the first to embrace the free exchange of ideas and speech,” said UNH President Mark Huddleston. “The only UNH policy on speech is that it is free and unfettered on our campuses, and we’re pleased that FIRE has recognized our efforts.”
Starting in 2017, Charlie Putnam, special counsel of the University System of New Hampshire, worked with Majeed to revise several UNH policies that earned a “yellow light” rating from FIRE. In addition to the demonstration and posting regulations, these included a civility code, a residence hall policy, and a bias incident protocol, all of which have been revised to protect students’ free speech rights.
Most colleges and universities surveyed by FIRE maintain policies that threaten student and faculty speech. Nationally, about one-third of institutions earn a “red light” rating, meaning they maintain at least one policy that both clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech. Almost 60 percent earn a yellow light rating, according to FIRE’s Spotlight on Speech Codes 2018 report.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to defending liberty, freedom of speech, due process, academic freedom, legal equality, and freedom of conscience on America’s college campuses.