Annual FIRE Ranking

FIRE's College Free Speech Rankings

Since 2020, the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), has published an annual ranking of the best colleges and universities in the United States for free expression, based on the survey opinions of college students from around the country. The most recent FIRE College Free Speech Rankings ranked 248 institutions, based on the survey responses of 55,102 students. In the 2024 College Free Speech Rankings, MIT ranked 136th of 248 institutions, a slight improvement over its position in the previous year’s survey, which ranked MIT 120th of 203 institutions. 

FIRE’s 2024 College Free Speech Ranking calculates each institution’s score, out of a possible 100 points, by evaluating how they perform in two key areas: student perceptions of the climate for free expression, and administrative behavior. Student perceptions are measured according to the following factors:

  • Comfort expressing ideas on controversial topics in a variety of campus settings
  • Tolerance for campus speakers espousing views potentially offensive to both conservative and liberal students
  • Student views on the acceptability of disruptive conduct to protest campus speakers, including support for violent conduct
  • Student perceptions of their college administration’s support for free expression
  • The perceived difficulty of having open conversations on a range of politically and culturally divisive topics.

Institutions were also scored based on their performance of a series of Campus Indicators. FIRE awarded points to institutions that demonstrably defended the rights of faculty members, students and student organizations, and campus speakers against calls for censorship or sanction. Conversely, FIRE deducted points from institutions that sanctioned faculty, students, and student organizations, or that disinvited speakers.

On FIRE’s 100-point scale, MIT’s received a score of 45.13, rating its overall speech climate as average. MIT's climate was rated "slightly below average" in FIRE's 2023 rankings.

While MIT placed 136th overall, it’s worth noting that, according to FIRE’s breakdown, MIT performed significantly better in some areas than others. It performed notably well, for instance, on students’ perception of openness to difficult conversations, ranking 12th overall. At the other end of the spectrum, fared significantly worse (182nd) on the difference in tolerance for allowing conservative and liberal speakers on campus and 152nd on students’ tolerance of disruptive conduct. 

Also notable is that MIT ranked 102nd on the measure of students’ perceptions of administrative support for free speech. This is a significant improvement from its showing the previous year, when it ranked 181st out of 203 institutions on this measure – a sign that efforts at promoting free expression at MIT, including by the MIT administration, are having a positive effect.

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