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Here's how some Florida universities rank for free-speech culture and climate

A red entry sign is surrounded by shrubbery on a sunny day.
Associated Press
Florida State University is being applauded for its free-speech climate and culture on campus. The school came in fifth in a report by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression.

Five Florida colleges join top schools in the U.S. in a report ranking free-speech climate and culture on college campuses. Once again, Florida State University is near the top.

Five Florida colleges were ranked in the fourth annual College Free Speech Rankings, which grades schools based on its climate and culture of free speech.

The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, or FIRE, and College Pulse worked together to survey 248 schools across the United States earlier this year.

Florida State University was the highest ranking school in the state, placing at No. 5.

Sean Stevens is director of polling at FIRE. He said FSU has been near the top for three of the last four years.

"They've been in the top five twice. So they, at this point, I would say are a school that consistently does better than most of the other schools that we survey," Stevens said.

At the opposite side of the polling is University of Florida, which placed at No. 231.

Stevens said UF’s ranking reflects a number of incidents over the past few years, one example being when professors were temporarily prevented from giving expert testimony.

In 2023, UF placed at No. 104.

School's rankings are based off of 13 different components, including student perceptions of speech climate on campus and administrative policies.

The University of South Florida was among the top colleges and placed at No. 12.

This is a large increase from last year, which was USF's first year in the rankings when it placed at No. 71.

Stevens said the rankings reflect how students feel when issues of free speech appear in a classroom or on campus.

“What happens when there's a controversy? What happens when a student group or an activist group off-campus is demanding that you disinvite a speaker? Or you sanction a professor?" he said. "Or you know that a student said something on social media and people want them expelled for whatever reason, it's how (the universities) respond to these things.”

USF officials did not accept a request for an interview, but issued a statement saying it values the right to free speech on campus, and “remains steadfast in our support of civil discourse and the open exchange of ideas."

Florida International University in Miami dropped slightly from last year placing at No. 46, but maintained a "slightly above average" grade of speech climate on campus.

The University of Central Florida took the lowest spot statewide, placing at No. 235. FIRE gave them a classification of "poor" for their speech climate.

Michigan Technological University took the No. 1 spot overall for having the best campus for free-speech, while Harvard University came in last.

Nothing about my life has been typical. Before I fell in love with radio journalism, I enjoyed a long career in the arts in musical theatre.