A survey by FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a nonprofit organization devoted to the protection of civil rights on campus, has found that 62 percent of the college campuses it looked at nationally substantially restrict free speech on campus.
In New Jersey, the rate was 55.6 percent.
FIRE’s report said that in most cases these policies had laudable goals — in that they were designed to discourage harassment, bullying, and incitement. However, the application of these policies should not be any more restrictive than would occur off-campus. In other words, the First Amendment protects free expression unless it meets certain standards set by the U.S. Supreme Court. These standards include immediate threat of violence, repetitive and extreme harassment, and true threats and intimidation. If an off-campus standard is not met, it would be illegal to enforce on campus, according to FIRE.
In New Jersey, Princeton, The College of New Jersey, Stevens Institute of Technology, Kean University, and William Paterson University were all awarded “red lights” for substantially restricting speech on campus. Rutgers, Montclair State, Richard Stockton College, and New Jersey Institute of Technology were given “yellow lights” for having policies that could be interpreted to suppress protected speech or restricted only narrow categories of speech.