RADFORD — Virginia is for lovers of free speech.
Radford University is the latest school to receive a rare “green light” rating from the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression.
Overall green light ratings are reserved for institutions with no written policies that seriously threaten student speech. Radford is one of only four schools in Virginia, and one of only 63 nationwide, that earn this rating.
“It is critical for Radford University to be a place where everyone is welcome, and where individuals of all beliefs, backgrounds, and perspectives can have open dialogue about the issues of our world,” said Radford President Bret Danilowicz. “We are proud to work alongside FIRE to advance Radford’s commitment to freedom of expression and to ensure that our community embraces the benefits of critical inquiry and meaningful debate.”
In the fall of 2022, Radford’s University Counsel proactively reached out to FIRE to discuss the school’s speech code rating, which was a “yellow light” at the time. Radford already boasted an exemplary posting policy that FIRE often recommends to other institutions, but it also maintained five policies that could be used to discipline students for protected expression on campus and online.
FIRE helped Radford revise policies governing the use of university facilities, the use of university computers and IT systems, harassment, online misconduct, and indecent behavior. The new policies ensure students can engage in expression that is protected by the First Amendment without fear of punishment.
The revised university facilities policy allows Radford students to organize events knowing they won’t have to worry about incurring security fees based on the content or viewpoint of the speech that will be expressed at the event. While many other schools handle controversial lectures and unpopular club events in a viewpoint-discriminatory fashion, Radford’s policy sets forth a content-neutral plan for decision-making about events on campus.
“With these revisions, Radford students can be sure their policies back them up when planning events,” said FIRE Senior Program Officer Ryan Ansloan. “Student groups shouldn’t have to shell out for costly security to host a speaker that the university dislikes — Radford’s policies affirm that.”
Radford’s achievement is the latest victory in the fight against censorship on Virginia’s college campuses. The state now has four green light institutions, including the University of Virginia, George Mason University, and the College of William and Mary. Virginia is tied for the third-most green light schools of any state, behind only North Carolina (15) and Mississippi (6).
FIRE is eager to help other schools in the commonwealth — and around the country — earn green light ratings.
The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to defending and sustaining the individual rights of all Americans to free speech and free thought — the most essential qualities of liberty. FIRE educates Americans about the importance of these inalienable rights, promotes a culture of respect for these rights, and provides the means to preserve them.
Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression