Runestad commends UM free speech statement

Runestad commends UM free speech statement

LANSING, MI State Sen. Jim Runestad on Friday commended the University of Michigan Board of Regents for a free speech statement adopted last month by the higher education institution. The statement outlines principles to guide the university to accept “diversity of thought and freedom of speech.”

“Higher education has gotten away with suppressing the freedom of speech and expression of many students for years,” said Runestad, R-White Lake. “While we see other prestigious universities failing to meet the standards set by the First Amendment and making a mockery of diversity of thought, it is refreshing to see U of M’s public commitment to these American values.”

While UM strides toward greater free speech on campus, other Michigan universities could learn from its example. The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expressions (FIRE), a nonprofit committed to promoting free speech on college campuses, played a critical role in forming the university’s new principles and produces rankings for many of the top universities in the nation.

UM’s FIRE ranking is sure to increase if these new principles are followed, yet other Michigan universities consistently rank poorly on the list. Central Michigan University sits at 236 out of 248 in the 2024 rankings, while Western Michigan is ranked slightly higher at 215 and Michigan State University comes in at 159. Notably, Michigan Technical University was ranked as having the No. 1 greatest free speech protections for the year.

“FIRE appreciated the opportunity to offer input on the University of Michigan’s statement, and will stand by to assist it and other Michigan institutions with strengthening the conditions for free speech on campus through their policies and practices,” said Laura Beltz, FIRE’s director of policy reform.

“Adopting a commitment to free speech and ensuring policies comport with the First Amendment is a necessary — though not sufficient — step for universities to improve the environment for expression on their campuses. Institutions must continue to educate students on these values and ensure the application of their policies protects free speech.”


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