Many readers also noted that the institutions on last year’s list weren’t evenly distributed across the country, and some folks suggested that the lack of perfect geographic balance undermined the credibility of the list. It doesn’t. While we’d love to have a model institution for student speech from every state in the union, some states simply aren’t living up to their end of the bargain! Take California, for example, which has exactly zero green light schools out of the 45 we review, and where the president of the University of California System is currently being asked to ban protected speech.
Again, we’d love every state to boast at least one college that seriously respects student speech. But the truth is that some states — like Virginia, for example — start with one college earning a green light, and then other campuses see how easy it is to protect students’ First Amendment rights and decide to join in as well. The most recent example of this is Mississippi: Once the University of Mississippi received a green light rating, rival Mississippi State University followed closely on its heels. Given that general counsels of universities talk to each other, and that many policies apply throughout a state’s entire public university system, it should probably be no surprise that some states have good policies with regard to free speech, while others don’t. The good news is sometimes just one school’s decision to repeal outdated and unlawful speech codes can trigger change across an entire state.
*When it comes to free speech I’ll honor Ole Miss by using it’s rightful name.