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An epidemic of anti-speech activity swept across the campuses of American colleges and universities in 2015 and shows little sign of abating in 2016. Not long ago, these same institutions were at the vanguard of First Amendment issues; students demanded—then made powerful use of—expanded speech rights on campus, and administrators held academic freedom sacrosanct.

These positions reflected a shared understanding that intellectual inquiry requires an environment in which debate is uninhibited, robust, and wide-open, even if it occasionally results in unpleasant or offensive exchanges. Today, however, the focus seems to be on limiting rather than promoting the open exchange of ideas. Students who once protested to have their voices heard now seek to silence those they disagree with or find threatening. Meanwhile, university administrators appear locked in a competition to determine which school will take the toughest stand against offensive, unpopular, and hurtful speech. First Amendment principles have given way to identity politics, trigger warnings, and so-called “safe spaces,” and the Free Speech Movement has, at many colleges, become the Anti-Speech Movement.

Since 1992, the Thomas Jefferson Center has awarded Jefferson Muzzles to those individuals and institutions responsible for the more egregious or ridiculous affronts to free speech during the preceding year. Our usual practice has been to select eight to twelve recipients each year, reflecting the unfortunate reality that threats to free expression regularly occur at all levels of government. This year, however, we were compelled to take a different approach. Never in our 25 years of awarding the Jefferson Muzzles have we observed such an alarming concentration of anti-speech activity as we saw last year on college campuses across the country. We are therefore awarding Jefferson Muzzles to the 50 colleges and universities discussed below, both as an admonishment for the acts already done and a reminder that it is not too late to change course.

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Alma College



Butler University


Colorado College

Community College of Philadelphia



Emporia State University

George Washington University

Hamilton College


Kean University

Kutztown University

Le Moyne College

Louisiana State University


Northern Michigan University


Norwich University

Oberlin College

Old Dominion University


Saint Louis University

Santa Barbara Community College

Smith College

Southern Illinois University-Carbondale

St. John Fisher College

SUNY Buffalo

Texas Christian University

Texas Tech


University of California System

University of California-Berkeley

University of Mary Washington

University of Minnesota

University of Missouri

University of Missouri School of Law

University of North Texas

University of Oklahoma

University of Oregon

University of San Diego

University of Southern California

University of Tulsa

Utica College


Williams College


Youngstown State

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