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Syracuse Makes List of “10 Worst Colleges for Free Speech” in 2020

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Syracuse University was once again included on a list of the “10 Worst Colleges for Free Speech,” compiled annually since 2011 by the nonpartisan Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).

That marks the fourth time in just nine years Syracuse has appeared on that list.

FIRE’s 2020 analysis scrutinized the university’s handling of a string of racially charged events that began last semester and have continued into the spring, blasting the administration for “rejecting a conservative student organization over its ideology and punishing all fraternities for someone else’s alleged act.”

Ironically, university officials released a statement about these incidents just yesterday (January 29), strengthening their position by declaring that “moving forward, any student who commits, engages in, assists or coordinates an act of bias vandalism or graffiti will be immediately suspended and removed from the University.”

As for the FIRE study, the only other New York school on this year’s Top 10 is LIU-Post in Brookville.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute earned a ‘Lifetime Censorship Award’ for its “total disinterest in protecting the very student rights that it promises.”

The following is copied from the full 2020 FIRE analysis, which can also be found here:

Appearing on FIRE’s Worst Colleges for Free Speech list for the fourth time, Syracuse University’s School of Communications laughably features the First Amendment. (Credit Small Curio / Flickr - edit

Appearing on FIRE’s Worst Colleges for Free Speech list for the fourth time, Syracuse University’s School of Communications laughably features the First Amendment. (Credit Small Curio / Flickr – edit

Numerous student organizations saw their rights violated by Syracuse University in the past year, earning this perennially repressive school another spot on our list.

Syracuse began the year by denying recognition to Young Americans for Freedom for blatantly viewpoint discriminatory reasons. Finding the group’s ideology “inflammatory,” the university refused to grant it recognition unless it abolished its requirement that prospective members believe in what the group stands for: conservative values.

In our Feb. 22 letter, FIRE asked Syracuse to explain why it deemed this requirement “unreasonable and not inclusive,” despite allowing every other student group to set membership criteria.

After starting off the year targeting a political student group, Syracuse closed the year by suspending all fraternity activities for the rest of the semester in response to an alleged racial incident. The only issue is that the university admitted that most, if not all, of the student groups had nothing to do with what happened. That’s right — the alleged use of a racial slur by a non-fraternity member prompted Syracuse to condemn all fraternities, even minority ones. On Nov. 22, FIRE called on SU to end this collective punishment of innocent students. Instead, they ran out the clock by keeping the suspension in place — and ran headlong onto our list.

Syracuse is no stranger to blithely disregarding its students’ rights. Also last year, it suspended students of its Theta Tau engineering fraternity chapter for a private, satirical skit roasting their fellow members, embroiling the university in litigation that continues to this very day. This should come as no surprise considering SU investigated a law student for his satirical blog in 2010, and expelled an education student for his Facebook posts in 2012, all while maintaining several severely restrictive speech codes.

As the new decade dawns on this university, with its buildings emblazoned with the First Amendment and motto “Knowledge crowns those who seek her,” FIRE hopes this is the year the four-time recipient of this shameful designation finally respects the rights of its students. If not, it might just earn itself a Lifetime Censorship Award.

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