BREAKING: Statewide review finds Marquette restricts freedom of speech

Marquette

Marquette

Marquette University received a red rating for restricting freedom of speech with at least one policy that “clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech,” the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty announced Thursday in its Wisconsin Speech Code Review

It is unclear which Marquette policies were reviewed to receive its red rating. The study reviewed more than 40 colleges or campuses, including 19 private institutions across the state. The study also includes six University of Wisconsin schools — UW-Parkside, UW-Platteville, UW-River Falls, UW-Stevens Point, UW-Superior and UW-Whitewater — and the rules that govern the entirety of the UW school system.

The review states. the colleges’ policies restrict speech in various ways, including “vague proscriptions, the creations of so-called ‘free speech zones’ and prior restraints.”

“Students across the country are made to parrot the accepted orthodoxy by school administrators or else are badgered into silence,” the report states. “Of the tools used by school administrators to stifle free speech, speech codes figure prominently.”

The review rated universities and colleges using a system created by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. The rating system uses a “traffic light” approach, where each color of a stoplight represents how that particular college ranks.

After the most severe rating, red, comes yellow ratings. A yellow rating means the college “is one whose policies restrict a more limited amount of protected expression or, by virtue of their vague working, could too easily be used to restrict protected expression.” A green rating means the college’s “policies do no seriously imperil speech.”

In addition, there is a blue rating set for a private college that “clearly and consistently states that it holds a certain set of values above a commitment to freedom of speech.”

Overall, 53% of private colleges in Wisconsin are rated “red.”

Among Marquette, private four-year institutions including Alverno College, Concordia University, Edgewood College, Mount Mary University, Milwaukee School of Engineering, Northland College, Ripon College, Silver Lake College of the Holy Family, St. Norbert College and Viterbo University all ranked red.

“Although these private institutions are not bound by the First Amendment and have much wider latitude in adopting policies, they very often ‘promise debate and freedom’ to their students,” the review states.

No colleges throughout the entire state, public or private, received a green rating.

The review adds that those that promise debate and freedom to their students should “take immediate action to ensure that their official policies match the assurance they make.”

The report cites the John McAdams v. Marquette University case, which arose after political science professor John McAdams was placed on suspension in 2015 for his blog post published in 2014, in which he named a graduate teaching assistant who an undergraduate student said did not allow for a discussion of gay marriage to occur in an ethics class.

McAdams linked the student teacher’s website to his blog post. The graduate assistant started to receive hate mail and left Marquette due to the harassment.

The review states that the Wisconsin legislature can and should get involved to safeguard a student’s right to free speech. The review suggests that the legislature should target some frequently recurring problems that were identified. It says the Wisconsin legislature should also consider additional bills that would identify permissible content for college policies.

This story is developing. 

This story was written by Natallie St. Onge. She can be reached at natallie.stonge@marquette.edu or on Twitter @natallie_stonge.