Fayetteville State University becomes 12th North Carolina institution to earn highest free speech rating

Date: December 02, 2019

Fayetteville State University revised its expressive policies to earn the highest free speech rating from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. FSU is the 12th institution in North Carolina to earn FIRE's "green light" rating, which is held by only 51 institutions nationwide.

"I am pleased that FIRE has designated Fayetteville State University with the green light rating," said FSU Interim Chancellor Dr. Peggy Valentine. "We believe in having a campus environment where the voices of our students and faculty can be heard, and where they can exercise their First Amendment rights. It is important to them and to university leadership that they know that they can share their thoughts and speak freely on issues and matters of importance to them without fear of retribution.

"Working with FIRE, FSU revised a total of seven policies since 2017 to earn the rating, including a computer use policy, bulletin board posting policy, residence hall policy, and an unconstitutional ban on profanity.

Out of all 51 institutions that earn FIRE's top rating for free speech, almost one in four is located in North Carolina - and that should be a real point of pride for North Carolinians," said FIRE Vice President of Policy Reform Azhar Majeed, who worked with FSU administrators to craft speech-protective policies. "We're proud to cement the state's status as a leader in campus free speech with FSU's well-earned designation as a university that values and protects student expression."

Two North Carolina institutions - Davidson College and Winston-Salem State University - earn FIRE's worst, "red light" rating for policies that clearly and substantially restrict speech. Five others earn FIRE's "yellow light" rating for policies that are vague and invite administrative abuse.

No institutions in bordering South Carolina earn the top rating.

FIRE rates more than 470 colleges nationwide to determine whether their written policies restrict speech that is protected by the Constitution. According to FIRE's "Spotlight on Speech Codes 2019" report, almost 90% of colleges maintain policies that restrict and chill protected expression.Public universities like FSU are legally bound by the First Amendment to respect free expression, while private institutions are bound by free speech promises found in their official policies. FIRE's rating system examines institutions' written policies and does not take into account specific cases or incidents, which FIRE may also weigh in on.

To learn more about the state of free speech on college campuses around the country, see FIRE's "Spotlight on Speech Codes 2019" report.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to defending and sustaining the individual rights of students and faculty members at America's colleges and universities. These rights include freedom of speech, freedom of association, due process, legal equality, religious liberty, and sanctity of conscience - the essential qualities of liberty.


Daniel Burnett, Assistant Director of Communications, FIRE: 215-717-3473; media@thefire.org

Jeffery M. Womble, Associate Vice Chancellor of Communications, FSU: 910-672-1474; jwomble@uncfsu.edu

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