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A spirit that is not afraid

Auburn University ranked second best college campus for free speech

A view of Samford Hall on Sept. 27, 2022.
A view of Samford Hall on Sept. 27, 2022.

After a poll of 55,102 individuals was taken from students across 254 colleges, Auburn University is recognized as the second-best college campus for free speech. 

The poll was conducted by College Pulse and the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression. Students were surveyed via the College Pulse app and website from Jan. 13 to June 30, 2023. The report titled “2024 College Free Speech Rankings” provides details regarding how the information was gathered and reports the data collected.

Colleges and universities were ranked on a score out of 100, and Auburn's score was 72.53.

“Auburn has always done well,” said Sean Stevens, FIRE's director of polling and analytics. 

Out of the past three years that Auburn has been included in this survey, the second-best overall in free speech is its highest ranking. Stevens explained that FIRE has a system to determine the rankings based on surveys from students and other knowledge about the University. 

"We ask questions about students feeling comfortable expressing themselves in different campus settings," Stevens said. "So it could be in the classroom, it could be a written assignment, it could be just talking to your friends in the dining hall or common campus area. We ask about social media, and then another thing that goes into this component is questions on self-censorship." 

We also ask what students think about the administration: does the administration support free speech? Are they likely to defend it? We maintain a number of other databases that effectively monitor either speech policies on campus or how campuses respond to controversies.”

FIRE tries its best to remain impartial when gathering and presenting data. 

“There are a set of questions that ask about tolerance, of allowing different controversial speakers on campus," said Stevens. "When student groups invite speakers to campus, we ask students if they think a person who has previously said a certain statement should be allowed on campus. We give three controversial liberal statements, three controversial conservative statements and we see how that all plays out”. 

This report is supposed to be beneficial for all. It provides useful information for many.

“The main goal is providing both prospective students, current students and their families with information about a campus,” said Stevens. “The long-term goal of our survey and the data we are collecting is to become something so researchers can kind of draw on."

FIRE started the college free speech rankings in 2020, but they hope in the long term it will help researchers learn what was important and occurring on college campuses during a certain time. 

“Things could be better, even at the best schools, but comparatively, those schools are better than the other schools, and Auburn is one of those schools," said Stevens.

Auburn definitely has room to improve their free speech on campus given their score is 72.53 out of 100, however, compared to other colleges, Auburn is doing well for free speech. 

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