Bill Donohue

The latest report on free speech on college campuses has just been published by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), “2024 College Free Speech Rankings.

For the last several years, four Jesuit-run schools have ranked among the worst in the nation when it comes to respecting freedom of speech: Georgetown University, Fordham University, Boston College and Marquette University. They are still at the bottom of the barrel.

The latest FIRE survey of 248 colleges and universities lists five Catholic schools that achieved a “Poor” rating; the only non-Jesuit school is Duquesne University. Boston College (#229), Marquette (#230), Duquesne (#241), Fordham (#244) and Georgetown (#245) made for an embarrassing cluster of Catholic schools. Georgetown even earned a “Very Poor” rating.

The most intolerant institution of higher education in the nation, coming in last at #248, was Harvard University: it actually earned the lowest score possible, 0.00, meriting the tag, “Abysmal.” Why would anyone who has a serious interest in academic excellence go to such a close-minded school? Graduates may land a good job, but can they think for themselves?

Some of the key findings in this year’s report are disconcerting, if not disgusting.

The schools in the bottom five, which includes Fordham and Georgetown, are not only intolerant of controversial ideas on campus, they succeeded in censoring speech 81 percent of the time.

What subjects set off the speech police the most? Abortion is #1. God forbid a student accepts the findings of science, and agrees with the teachings of the Catholic Church, that life begins at conception. Such speech simply cannot be tolerated by those who fancy themselves as “open-minded.”

As usual, it’s left-wing students, dogmatically following the ideological predilections of their professors, who are the most intolerant of free speech. “Student opposition to allowing controversial conservative speakers on campus ranged from 57% to 72%, depending on the speaker. In contrast, student opposition to controversial liberal speakers ranged from 29% to 43%.”

Incredibly, 45% of today’s college students believe that it is okay to block other students from attending a speech—this is up from 37% last year. More than a quarter, 27%, say it is acceptable to engage in violence to stop a speech they don’t like—it’s up from 20% last year.

Have our colleges become hotbeds of fascism? Some are moving very quickly in that direction.

Importantly, there are some schools that respect free speech. The top five are: Michigan Technological University, Auburn University, University of New Hampshire, Oregon State University and Florida State University.

It might be worthwhile for the alumni of the Jesuit-run schools cited near the bottom of the free-speech rankings to demand that their school officials meet with administrators of the top five schools—all of which are public universities—to find out what they are doing right.

In short, these Catholic institutions need an examination of conscience. They are taking the hard-earned money of the students’ parents and abusing it in ways that are positively sinful.

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