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How Colleges Fight Free Speech

If you aren’t careful about what you say or where you say it, you can run afoul of authorities at nearly two-thirds of the top universities and colleges in the United States. So says the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE, which surveyed 392 campuses and found that 65 percent of them have instituted “red-light” policies that “both clearly and substantially restrict freedom of speech.”

“You can get in trouble for saying almost anything these days on a college campus,” FIRE President Greg Lukianoff declares. One common practice: Campuses outlaw debate, protest or political discourse except in designated “free speech zones.” And the zones aren’t necessarily free: Students often need advance approval from administrators before presenting an argument, even within the confines of these zones. Lukianoff asserts that such policies diminish the value of open debate, and ill-serve students by only preparing them for “a culture of uncritical thinking.”

Reason correspondent Kennedy interviewed Lukianoff at this month’s FreedomFest in Las Vegas, Nevada. In addition to discussing FIRE, the conversation also touched on Lukianoff’s new book Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate.

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