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Recent Study Rates Kentucky Universities Free Speech Policies

 This article has been updated. 

A recent study ranks Murray State University as having more restrictive policies on free speech compared to other universities and colleges in the state.


The Foundation For Individual Rights In Education (FIRE) conducted the study. The nonprofit organization aims to protect first amendment rights of university faculty and students.

The rankings are based on university policies that regulate expression and are represented on a traffic light scale. 

Green is the least restrictive while red being the most. Murray State scored a red light. Laura Beltz is the lead author of the annual study. She said Murray State’s information technology policy is not constitutional. 

“The particular policy at Murray State says that I.T. resources may not be used in a harassing, profane, or abusive manner. And that policy earns a red light, it is clearly restricting speech that is constitutionally protected,” said Beltz.

Murray State’s internet usage policy states “university information technology resources may not be used in a harassing, offensive, profane, or abusive manner. The perception or reaction of affected persons is a major factor in determining if a specific action is in violation of this policy.”

Murray State spokesperson Shawn Touney in a statement said the "university's IT policies are rooted in the safety and well-being of our campus community."

11 percent of schools nationwide earned a green light. Laura Beltz said limiting expression at universities limits ideas. 

“Colleges should serve as a marketplace of ideas where you're able to discuss and debate with other students,” said Beltz. “And if you have policies that are saying that any subjectively offensive speech could be punished, your rights are limited.”

The University of Louisville and Eastern Kentucky University are some of only 52 universities nationwide with a green light rating. Morehead State University and Murray State University both have red light ratings. 

Five of the nine state higher education institutions in the study scored the most common rating of a yellow light. 

This article has been updated to clarify the findings of the study. This article has also been updated with a statement from Murray State University.

Hannah is a Murray State Journalism major. She found her place in radio during her second year in Murray. She is from Herndon, KY, a small farming community on the Kentucky/Tennessee stateline.
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