Binghamton University proudly touts its high national rankings, most recently Kiplinger’s rating of affordable quality in higher education, but there is one rating it may not be so eager to flaunt.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) released last week its list of “The 12 Worst Colleges for Free Speech.” BU was No. 3.
BU’s rating was due primarily to a 2008 incident in which a student in the College of Community and Public Affairs was punished in connection with entering the University Downtown Center to post fliers in which he disputed the actions of an adjunct lecturer in the school.
FIRE’s rating, published in The Huffington Post, was written by Greg Lukianoff, president of FIRE.
BU, Lukianoff wrote, “tried to suspend or expel social work graduate student Andre Massena merely for putting up posters criticizing the department.” Massena’s criticism was directed at adjunct lecturer David Tanenhaus, who was also director of the Binghamton Housing Authority. Massena accused Tanenhaus of injustice toward the poor due to his involvement with the Binghamton Housing Authority.
In a letter to Laura Bronstein, the chair of CCPA, Tanenhaus said that a student who had spoken with Massena stated that “[Andre] replied that there had been a misunderstanding with me in the past, but this had been resolved.”
The charges against Massena were eventually dropped, and he was able to graduate.
“Binghamton University shares FIRE’s commitment to free speech on college campuses and we welcome their advocacy efforts,” Glover said.
But she also addressed the rating directly.
“With respect to the specific article, we do not believe it is a meaningful evaluation of what campuses as a whole are or are not doing relative to speech on campus, but rather serves mostly to promote FIRE as an organization by spotlighting those matters in which the organization is or has been involved,” Glover said. “The specific incidents that place Binghamton on the list occurred almost two years ago and involved one program within one of six schools. Any inference about Binghamton’s commitment to free speech is misleading.”
Binghamton’s third-place ranking puts it behind Syracuse University and DePaul University in Chicago, Ill.
Syracuse, Lukianoff wrote, “is home to the most dramatic ongoing attempt to stifle student speech so far in 2011.” He pointed to an instance in which a student in the Syracuse University College of Law is in danger of being expelled for harassment on the grounds that he participated in a fake news segment about law school life published by the satirical newspaper, The Onion.
The ranking also chastised Syracuse for a ban on “offensive” e-mails, as well as for a system that allows students to report inappropriate verbal comments.
DePaul made the list for refusing to recognize the student group Students for Cannabis Policy Reform. According to the ranking, “DePaul has also punished a group for holding an ‘affirmative action bake sale’ protest, suspended a professor without due process for engaging in a debate on Middle East issues with a group of students, and banned a student group from posting flyers protesting a visit by former professor Ward Churchill.”