University under Criticism for Restricting Free Speech

Category: Education/Family


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. under fire / ˈʌndɚ fajɚ / (idiom) – being criticized severely

    The university is under fire for banning demonstrations on campus.

  2. take notice of (something) / teɪk ˈnoʊtəs əv / (phrasal) – to give attention to something

    Students are conducting protests after taking notice of the university’s very strict policies.

  3. infringe / ɪnˈfrɪndʒ / (v) – to unfairly limit or restrict something

    Authorities believe that the school’s new policy infringes upon the students’ freedom of speech.

  4. within reason / wɪˈðɪn ˈriːzn̩ / (idiom) – can be justified

    School authorities think that students should not complain because the new dress code is within reason.

  5. hamper / ˈhæmpɚ / (v) – to make something difficult to achieve

    The students felt that the new policy hampers their right to free speech.


Read the text below.

The University of Southern California (USC) was recently under fire due to a new policy that restricts students’ freedom of speech.

Last summer, the USC came up with a new policy requiring students to secure a permit two weeks prior to any demonstrations on campus. The policy also states that the university has the right to reschedule any demonstrations that do not have a permit.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a group that promotes civil rights in schools and universities in the United States, took notice of the USC’s new policy. While reviewing the free speech policies of universities, FIRE noted that the USC’s requirement for campus demonstrations infringes on the students’ right to free speech. Consequently, the group gave the USC a red light rating, the lowest grade given to universities that restrict the said right.

According to FIRE, this new policy opposes the First Amendment to the US Constitution, which protects people’s right to free speech. The First Amendment allows universities to impose limits on demonstrations to prevent critically interrupting school operations. However, such restrictions should be within reason. With the new policy, the students’ response to certain issues is hampered. FIRE believes that such a requirement is not justifiable as it discourages students from expressing their opinions publicly.

In the university’s defense, the vice president for student affairs emphasized that the policy’s purpose is to ensure safety and avoid conflicts over reserving demonstration areas.

Nonetheless, the USC promised to revise the policy. Getting a permit two weeks before a protest will no longer be required but will still be recommended.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• Do you agree with FIRE’s red light rating for the USC? Why or why not?
• What do you think will be the effect of FIRE’s red light rating on the USC?

Discussion B

• Why do you think free speech is important in universities?
• Do you think universities in your country are encouraging free speech? Why or why not?