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Freedom of Speech & UT Austin’s FIRE Rating

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Background Summary 

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.… [S]tudents, faculty members, staff members, and members of the public … 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.”

UT Austin’s FIRE Rating

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) gives UT Austin green ratings (its highest mark) for the university’s three core policies on freedom of expression, and yellow (medium) ratings for six other policies and one that has been discontinued, and no red (lowest) ratings.  

FIRE rates UT Austin green, its highest mark, for UT’s two policies on “Speech, Expression, and Assembly” and our “Institutional Rules on Student Services and Activities: Student Discipline and Conduct.” As of Jan. 8, 2021, UT also received a green rating for the university’s new policy on sexual misconduct and harassment. 

FIRE rated six of UT Austin policies yellow (medium), including the university’s policy on Hate and Bias Incidents, which has been eliminated as part of a lawsuit settlement with the organization Speech First. With the settlement, the university also agreed to disband the Campus Climate Response Team, which was related to this yellow policy. 

Related policies

UT Austin Experts

David M. Rabban, School of Law

University Messages

Free Speech Week at UT — Letter from President Jay Hartzell, Oct. 6, 2020