Several of the most selective universities in the U.S., including two Ivy League schools, rank among the worst colleges in the country for free speech, according to a recent assessment that factored in student responses, guest-speaker disinvitations, incidents of faculty sanctioning, and restrictive-speech policies.

The collaborative survey, released Wednesday by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression and College Pulse, put Columbia University in last place for free speech and the University of Pennsylvania in second to last. Georgetown University was determined to be the fourth most hostile campus to free speech.

The study relied on a database of episodes in which visiting scholars and/or administrators were targeted for harassment, with eight such recorded instances at Columbia between 2020 and 2022, both from the political left and right.

In 2020, Professor Mitch Silver faced calls for his dismissal because his course and writing on modern urban terrorism were deemed Islamophobic by students. In 2022, a psychiatry professor at Columbia School of Medicine was removed from his position as psychiatrist-in-chief and suspended from his position as the psychiatry department chair for a tweet about a dark-skinned model that some considered insensitive.

Georgetown’s low performance in the review is at least partially explained by three 2022 sanctioning efforts by the left, including the case of Ilya Shapiro, whose appointment to the law school was temporarily suspended after the Black Law Student Association pressured the school to terminate him over a poorly-worded tweet.

Georgetown Law Center ultimately concluded that Shapiro committed no harm that merited his firing and reinstated him on June 2nd, but he resigned just a few days later out of principle, he said.

Speaker-disinvitation attempts were also accounted for in the rankings. In 2016 at the University of Pennsylvania, student activists successfully shut down a talk by former CIA director John Brennan. An address by former Immigration and Customs Enforcement head under the Trump administration Thomas Homan was also cancelled in response to backlash from protesters in 2019.

Among the students FIRE [the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression] interviewed, many espoused intolerant attitudes about speakers that depart from progressive views. For instance, 74 percent of respondents said they do not support allowing a speaker who says transgender people have a mental disorder or who says Black Lives Matter is a hate group. Similarly, 69 percent said they do not support allowing someone to speak who says the 2020 election was stolen. That number was 60 percent for those who said they want to outlaw abortion.

“The situation for freedom of speech and academic freedom has been in trouble on campus since before FIRE was founded in 1999,” FIRE CEO Greg Lukianoff said in a press release. “That situation has gotten far worse in the last few years. Our new and improved rankings are intended to reward universities that protect and defend the freedom of speech, while empowering students and parents who care about free speech not to attend or support universities that don’t.”

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