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September 16, 2014

Free speech on college campuses isn't always a given (Theilr/ Flickr CC).

Students and faculty at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire enjoy some of the least restrictive speech rights in the country, according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. The school was recently awarded a "green light" free-speech rating from the FIRE, an organization that monitors individual rights on college campuses. 

The rating is awarded to colleges and universities whose policies support, rather than restrict, student or faculty speech while on campus. FIRE offers a database of college speech policies and gives all of America's higher ed institutions a rating of either red, yellow or green.

Plymouth State joins a list of 19 other schools that have also earned the green light rating, including Dartmouth College.

While those New Hampshire schools seem to be doing well by the motto 'live free or die', Massachusetts schools don't have the strongest free-speech credentials. Boston College, Boston University, Harvard University, Northeastern University, Tufts University, UMass-Amherst and Worcester State all have red light rankings. 

WGBH publishes the Campus Muzzle Awards by FIRE founder Harvey Silverglate each year. 

Campus censorship is particularly dangerous since it risks teaching students, who represent the next generation preparing to assume power and guide our nation, that all of those nice words about liberty and freedom contained in the First Amendment are simply red-white-and-blue bunting: there for the sake of appearance but of no real consequence. 

This year, Amherst College made WGBH's list for banning off-campus fraternities and sororities. Brown and Brandeis Universities also made the list because they opted to disinvite controversial speakers, rather than forge ahead despite student protests.

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