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All of Arizona’s public universities now protect free speech in writing

Arizona may be known nationally for a rogue sheriff and a terrible NBA team, but supporters of free speech know it for more positive reasons.

Eight years after Arizona State University achieved a “green light” rating from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, and months after the University of Arizona did the same, Northern Arizona University has completed the trifecta.

All its public universities earn FIRE’s highest rating, which means institutions do not maintain written policies that “imperil free speech.”

FIRE said Tuesday that NAU revised a “yellow light” policy that was ambiguous enough to let administrators stifle speech. It removed a ban on undefined “lewd” material in a computer use policy, leaving only constitutionally permissible bans on “harassment” and “threats.”

NAU President Rita Hartung Cheng said the university welcomes “a diversity of opinions,” which is a “fundamental aspect of the learning experience.” It does not discourage “expressing and testing our ideas in conversation” or “being open to intellectual challenge and response.”

The university’s addition to the green-light ranks also means that more than a million students nationally are enrolled at green-light institutions, according to FIRE.

Like many public universities, NAU has a mixed record on its tolerance for and promotion of free speech. It told students to avoid certain politically incorrect Halloween costumes, and a professor and department chair told a student to put away his Bible before class.

But President Cheng also dismissed calls from students to step down after she said “safe spaces” have no place on campus.

Read the release.

MORE: Some college presidents show signs of growing a backbone

IMAGE: Roman Samborskyi/Shutterstock

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg spent several years as a technology policy reporter and editor for Warren Communications News in Washington, D.C., and guest host on C-SPAN’s “The Communicators.” He co-founded the alternative newspaper PUNCH and served as a reporter, editor and columnist for The Falcon at Seattle Pacific University.

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