The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression and College Pulse released their annual College Free Speech Rankings for 2024. The rankings offer a comparison among universities based on Freedom of Speech.  

According to the rankings, Texas A&M University is seventh on the list, as one of the friendliest campuses toward free speech. However, the University of Texas at Austin was ranked 239th among the 248 colleges and universities reviewed. 

“Each year, the climate on college campuses grows more inhospitable to free speech,” said FIRE Director of Polling and Analytics Sean Stevens. “Some of the most prestigious universities in our country have the most repressive administrations. Students should know that a college degree at certain schools may come at the expense of their free speech rights.”

Other public Texas universities were also ranked in the report, including: 

#37 – University of Texas, El Paso (“Slightly Above Avg”)

#38 – University of Texas, Arlington (“Slightly Above Avg”)

#40 – Texas Tech University (“Slightly Above Avg”)

#49 – University of Texas, San Antonio (“Average”)

#100 – Texas State University (“Average”)

#114 – University of Texas, Dallas (“Average”)

#157 – University of Houston (“Slightly Below Avg”)

#221 – University of North Texas (“Below Average”)

The report comes as many universities face opposition for implementing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) policies on their campuses. However, Texas has begun pushing back on leftist policies in higher education, with the implementation of a new state law banning DEI offices, policies, and training from state-funded universities. However, the law does have certain loopholes.

For the rankings, students were asked about their campus experiences with free speech. Despite A&M being among the top speech-friendly campuses, one Aggie—who remained anonymous—said that while it’s not the most significant issue on campus, they are still afraid to express their opinion.

“It’s not really a big issue but it is one. Teachers nowadays are more lenient on work but topic wise, no. I feel if I express my opinion I would get told to leave or get dropped out of the class or something like that. No matter what, fear will always be there.”

However, while it may not the biggest issue on A&M’s campus, UT, which scored the lowest of all Texas public universities, has an immense problem with free speech. 

One student—interviewed anonymously—told FIRE that because of their political beliefs, they were afraid to express their view on an assignment and instead switched to a less controversial topic to avoid receiving a bad grade. 

Another student said they feel their conservative values were automatically dismissed by their liberal classmates. 

UT came under fire earlier this year for labeling conservative news outlets as risky. In May, Texas Scorecard reported that the university labeled conservative news outlets like the Washington Examiner and The Federalist as the “riskiest” disinformation sources.

The president of the Young Conservative Federation, Joshua Medeiros, told Texas Scorecard that while it’s unpleasant to see UT ranked so low, it shows a trend in universities limiting conservative viewpoints. 

“It’s unfortunate to see such a ranking for UT-Austin,” explained Medeiros. “This trend is indicative of a wider issue in Austin, both at UT and elsewhere, where there’s a noticeable inclination to limit conservative viewpoints in favor of promoting divisive liberal ideology.”

Emily Medeiros

Emily graduated from the University of Oklahoma majoring in Journalism. She is excited to use her research and writing skills to report on important issues around Texas.