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University recieves 'green light' rating for free speech

Recently, the University of Mississippi received a “green light” rating for its permission of free speech on campus, the highest of honors awarded.
The group in charge of the ratings is the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).
Ole Miss has always been a university that promotes free speech on campus. Its new rating comes from the changing of a technical term in order to bring clarity of policies to students and faculty alike.
Assistant Dean of Students Scott Wallace was a driving force behind the adaptation.
“I believe that our practice has always been a ‘green light,’ just the language in our policies could have been interpreted to inhibit free flow,” he said. “This has been a simple clarification of the language in our policies, not a change of the policies themselves.”
Wallace has been working with FIRE on upgrading the university’s rating since 2005, but the work really came to fruition last February.
University attorney Lee Tyner shed some light on the policies that were revised to achieve the new rating. The four policies are: the IT Appropriate Use Policy, the Sexual Harassment Policy, the Free Inquiry, Expression and Assembly Policy, and the Residence Hall/Apartment Bill of Rights. None of the changes made to these policies can be interpreted to harm a student’s rights in any way.
Two-thirds of the nation’s colleges maintain policies that somehow restrict the freedom of speech, according to FIRE.
Ole Miss is the 16th school to earn the “green light” rating. Other universities that have recently been given the rating are James Madison University, the University of Virginia, Arizona State University and the College of William and Mary. Ole Miss and the University of Tennessee are the only two SEC schools with a “green light” rating.
“An example that really sets us apart from other universities is the Klu Klux Klan exhibition that was held on campus in 2009,” Wallace said. “This is something that is mentioned at conferences nationally as a ‘worst case scenario’ — but it is one of those things where we dealt with that, and did so fairly well.”
Ole Miss is the first university in Mississippi to receive the “green light” rating.
Young Americans for Liberty president James Robertson, a senior political science and English major, commended the university for working with FIRE to make sure the amendments were done properly.
“Even though this was a technicality, it still needed to be addressed because although this administration didn’t use their polices to hurt students’ rights, someone in the future could (have),” he said.
Robertson’s student group will host a banned book reading later this semester. This year, rather than as a peaceful protest of the banned book list, it will be looked at as a celebration of free speech on campus.
“Why would you be opposed to free speech? It is one thing that makes a public university great because students have more of an opportunity to express their ideas,” Wallace said.