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Freedom of Speech & UT Austin’s FIRE Rating

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UT strongly values and protects free speech, and all students, faculty and staff have the right of free speech and expression on the UT Austin campus.  As stated in the university’s Handbook of Operating Procedures:

“The freedoms of speech, expression, and assembly are fundamental rights of all persons and are central to the mission of the University. Students [at UT Austin] … have the right to assemble, to speak, and to attempt to attract the attention of others, and corresponding rights to hear the speech of others when they choose to listen, and to ignore the speech of others when they choose not to listen.”


The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) rates UT Austin green, its highest mark, for UT’s policies on “Speech, Expression, and Assembly” and our “Institutional Rules on Student Services and Activities: Student Discipline and Conduct.” These are core policies for how a university approaches freedom of expression. We also have a few policies FIRE gives a yellow (medium) rating, including our Hate and Bias Incident policy, which includes this wording:

“The University is committed to the principles of free inquiry and expression and is dedicated to creating an environment where the expansion of knowledge and the freedom to exchange ideas is safeguarded. As such, members of the University community have the right to hold, vigorously defend, and express their ideas and opinions, and for such ideas and opinions to flourish or wither according to their merits.”

Overall, UT Austin has a low (red) rating from FIRE. Our red FIRE rating mainly results from FIRE’s interpretations of 1) our brief “acceptable use” policy for information technology and 2) our policy on sexual discrimination, sexual harassment and stalking. FIRE has very particular objections to the wording of these policies. The policies are posted on the FIRE page for UT Austin. The university believes these policies strongly protect freedom of speech.

Related policies

Chapter 13: Speech, Expression & Assembly (Handbook of Operating Procedures)

Hate and Bias Incident Policy

UT Austin Experts

Leonard Moore

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