20 Colleges Fighting Hate Speech On-Campus and in Their Communities

Author: Maxim Sorokopud/ Reviewed by: Julie McCaulley/ Reading Level: Grade 11/ Publication Date: May 2024

Key Takeaways:

  • Colleges and universities across the United States are actively working to combat hate speech by employing a variety of strategies to promote inclusivity, protect free speech, and address incidents of hate speech.
  • Some examples of steps these institutions are taking include educational workshops, seminars, and curriculum integration.
  • Colleges collaborate with local community organizations and advocacy groups to address hate speech and promote inclusivity beyond the campus

Debates regarding the tolerance of hate speech on college campuses have escalated in recent months. After two elite American college presidents resigned following their testimonies during congressional hearings, many individuals are wondering which colleges are committed to fighting hate crime, both on and off campus. A college’s stance toward hate speech is often hard to assess, which is why this article exists. The colleges featured in this ranking are all proactively trying to prevent hate speech.

Featured Programs

The measures a public college can take to prevent hate speech are limited due to the First Amendment. As the American Civil Liberties Union notes, public colleges are operated by the US government, they cannot censor speech no matter how hateful individuals may find it. Many private colleges, while not being restricted, also adhere to the principles of free speech. However, both public and private colleges are free to launch initiatives that discourage hate speech and promote respectful discourse. In this light, the following ranking has largely assessed how colleges work to end hate speech in ways that comply with the First Amendment.

Every college in America should be committed to making its campus, community, and nation free of hate speech against any group. Unfortunately, some colleges are falling short of this commitment. While it may be impossible to eradicate all instances of hate speech, it is possible to take action to reduce its occurrence. The colleges in this ranking can demonstrate their efforts toward this reduction.

Any one of the 20 colleges ahead is a strong choice for prospective students who want to attend a college that opposes hate speech. However, it’s also possible that none of the colleges in this ranking are right for you. If that’s true, this article can still be a vital tool in your college search. Each entry features a summary of the actions that the college is taking to prevent hate speech. These have been included to compare and contrast with your college options. If any college you’re considering is implementing anti-hate speech measures like the 20 listed, that’s a strong sign that it’s a college worth attending.

Methodology

The potential colleges for inclusion in this ranking were identified from various sources highlighting American educational institutions committed to preventing hate speech. These sources are listed at the end of the article.

After identifying the relevant colleges in these lists, we conducted further research into each university to determine the breadth of anti-hate speech measures in effect. This research formed the final basis for inclusion in this ranking.

Our ranking criteria are as follows:

  • Evidence of strong anti-hate speech policies/initiatives
  • Innovation in implementing anti-hate speech measures
  • The breadth of anti-hate speech initiatives
  • Combined ranking on the methodology lists

The ranking, from 20 to one, is as follows:

20. University of Cincinnati

Cincinnati, Ohio

Website

Since 2020, the Coalition for Anti-Racist Action at the University of Cincinnati has worked to advance racial equity on campus, most notably in relation to hate speech. The college has embraced a movement named End Polite Silence. Its aim is to provide support and advocacy for those subject to racist sentiment. In 2024, this organization also encourages people to sign a pledge challenging ideas of white supremacy. Hillel International lists IC as a current participant in its Campus Climate Initiative.

19. Pomona College

Claremont, California

Website

In March 2023, Pomona College’s leaders issued a statement highlighting how they would respond to the rise of antisemitism. The statement said the college would combat this rhetoric with actions such as:

  • Teach-ins
  • Restorative justice circles
  • Promoting dialogue across faiths and identities

The college has also previously held a speaker series on balancing free speech with diversity and inclusion and organized a task force to explore ways to combine free expression with an inclusive environment. Hillel International lists Pomona College as a participant in its Campus Climate Initiative.

18. Goucher College

Baltimore, Maryland

Website

The Campus Climate Education Team at Goucher College works to respond to incidents that may constitute hate or bias in the community. When these incidents occur, the team responds in a number of ways, such as:

  • Facilitating dialogue
  • Recommending campus notices for fact-sharing
  • Running educational programs

The student body of the college also has a history of responding to instances of hate speech, such as when students rallied in opposition to a racial slur being written in dorm bathrooms. In 2024, the college’s president has committed to disciplining students who have posted antisemitic and anti-black posters on campus. Hillel International lists Goucher College as a participant in its Campus Climate Initiative.

17. Bentley University

Waltham Massachusetts

Website

Bentley Brave, a series of events and programs at Bentley University, works to facilitate education, reflection, and conversation on a range of sensitive subject matter, such as race, religion, and sexual orientation, in a manner that achieves inclusive excellence. The college also previously ran a Racial Justice Task Force, which created several recommendations that promoted anti-racist attitudes. In 2024, the college hosted Harvard University professor Steven Pinker to discuss free speech and how guidelines can improve intellectual diversity and civil discourse. Hillel International lists Bentley University as a current participant in its Campus Climate Initiative.

16. Loyola Marymount University

Los Angeles, California

Website

After examining its systemic inequity in 2020, Loyola Marymount University enacted a number of initiatives to improve its campus climate. One of the most effective of these in terms of countering hate speech is the Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation Alliance, which seeks to promote reflection, intergroup dialogue, and racial healing circles. Similarly, the LMU Anti-Racism Project challenges the college community to participate in anti-racist initiatives that can counter hate speech, such as:

  • Dialogues
  • Workshops
  • Examination of data
  • Prayer

Hillel International lists Loyola Marymount University as a participant in its Campus Climate Initiative.

15. Brown University

Providence, Rhode Island

Website

In early 2024, Brown University launched a website titled Strengthening Our Community Amid Conflict. This website aims to promote programming, initiatives, and community resources that reverse the rise in antisemitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of discrimination. Time notes that in the late 1980s, Brown University amended its anti-discrimination policy, which led to the expulsion of a student who made multiple racist and homophobic comments to other students and which the source credits as being instrumental in diffusing racial tensions on the campus.

14. New York University

New York City, New York

Website

In late 2023, New York University announced a 10-point plan to address hate on campus. These measures include:

  • Enhancing security
  • Responding to complaints
  • Developing workshops to discuss difficult subject matter
  • Creating advocacy space
  • Engaging with the community

The college’s non-discrimination and anti-harassment policy also clearly states that repeated verbal abuse based on race, sex, sexuality, or ethnic identity is a violation that will result in disciplinary action. This information is also repeated in the college’s guidance material regarding expectations of student conduct. The college even has a bias response line to report discrimination. The Hill notes that New York University is actively investigating incidents of hate speech.

13. Brandeis University

Waltham, Massachusetts

Website

In 2023, Brandeis University launched the Presidential Initiative to Counter Antisemitism in Higher Education. This initiative aims to train university administrators to highlight “the most up-to-date and reliable research methods for recognizing and addressing campus-based antisemitism.” In 2024, it is hosting a number of events that promote this goal. The college’s president has personally stated that the institution had decided to no longer recognize organizations that call for violence toward people while also stating that the college is only restricting expression that constitutes threats or harassment. The Hillel highlights how Brandeis University has cut ties with these organizations.

12. Brooklyn College, The City University of New York

Brooklyn, New York

Website

Since 2017, Brooklyn College, The City University of New York, has run an initiative named We Stand Against Hate. This initiative runs lectures, workshops, concerts, programs, and events promoting dialogue, understanding, and compassion. Shortly after the October 7th attack in 2023, the college’s president announced that We Stand Against Hate would curate a range of programming that encourages peaceful engagement regarding the subsequent conflict. Hillel International lists Brooklyn College, The City University of New York, as a current participant in its Campus Climate Initiative.

11. Baylor University

Waco, Texas

Website

In 2024, an “inaugural cohort of ‘Bridgebuilding Fellows’ joined together” at Baylor University to provide a campus-wide demonstration of means to encourage improved engagement between polarized groups. In the fall of 2024, this group will also participate in training activities and host events to unite individuals with differing perspectives. In 2020, the college also implemented a range of initiatives to improve tolerance on campus, including requiring diversity training for all students, faculty, and staff. Not In Our Town notes that hundreds of individuals within the Baylor University community have previously demonstrated against instances of hate speech and hate crime on campus.

10. Wayne State University

Detroit, Michigan

Website

In late 2023, President Kimberly Andrews Espy, Ph.D notified the Wayne State University community regarding instances of religious intolerance, antisemitism, and Islamophobia on campus. In addition to condemning these actions, she also announced a number of efforts to boost safety and encourage respectful discourse. These measures included increasing security measures and hosting events that promote respectful engagement. In early 2024, the college also hosted a daylong symposium titled Speech on Campus: Perspectives, Implications, and Ethics, which discussed ways of promoting the free exchange of ideas in a manner that could provide broad community benefits. In the past, the college has also taken disciplinary action against faculty members who made social media posts that advocated violence against specific groups. Hillel International also names Wayne State University as a current participant in its Campus Climate Initiative.

9. The Ohio State University

Columbus, Ohio

Website

Since 2019, The Ohio State University has implemented the Shared Values Initiative, which encourages respectful discourse and disciplined decision-making for all college community members. It also aims to hold college leaders to act with high standards of ethics and integrity. Additionally, the Civil Discourse Project works to bring resources across the college to community members to provide open-minded expression and authentic engagement. It does this by running events and courses that discuss pressing issues. The Ohio State University is also a member of the Hillel International Campus Climate Initiative.

8. University of California, Berkeley

Berkeley, California

Website

University of California, Berkeley’s data science laboratory has done significant work documenting hate speech. Its Measuring Hate Speech corpus, for instance, is a dataset of 40,000 social media comments that have been annotated by close to 10,000 individuals. This information has been used to publish papers in high-impact conferences and to develop large language modules that detect hate speech. This data is also freely available to the public. Associated Press quotes the University of California, Berkeley’s law school dean in its article highlighting the tension between free speech and inclusivity on college campuses.

7. University of Connecticut

Storrs, Connecticut

Website

The Reducing Information Ecosystem Threats (RIET) Lab at the University of Connecticut has performed a range of work concerning hate speech. For instance, in 2021, it was given a National Science Foundation award for a project addressing “online misinformation and racially targeted hate speech.” In the past, the college’s community has been quick to unite against instances of hate speech on campus, such as when hundreds of students attended a rally in support of LGBT people after an art exhibit named Speaking OUT: Queer Youth In Focus was subjected to homophobic vandalism. Hillel International lists the college as a current partner in its Campus Climate Initiative.

6. San Francisco State University

San Francisco, California

Website

The Race, Empowerment, and Justice Project at San Francisco State University runs projects and partners with organizations that target hate speech. This includes providing resources for faculty members that support productive discussions of racism and similar difficult topics to students. It also runs the Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Pedagogies for Inclusive Excellence Institute, which provides a 25-hour course for developing anti-racist and anti-white supremacy teaching methods. Hillel International lists San Francisco State University as a current participant in its Campus Climate Initiative.

5. Iowa State University of Science and Technology

Ames, Iowa

Website

In 2019, after a string of racist incidents, Iowa State University of Science and Technology announced that it would be implementing several significant diversity initiatives, including training every faculty member on creating inclusive classroom environments. The college also runs the Thomas L. Hill Iowa State Conference on Race and Ethnicity, which “assists institutions of higher education in creating inclusive environments, improving campus racial and ethnic relations, and expanding opportunities for access to education for traditionally underrepresented populations.” Poynter highlights how Iowa State University of Science and Technology has focused on improving how faculty members approach diversity and inclusion in the classroom.

4. Colby College

Waterville, Maine,

Website

In 1994, when a series of antisemitic incidents took place on the Colby College campus, over 800 people within the college’s community orchestrated a rally in protest of these hate crimes. More recently, the college’s president has strongly condemned antisemitic remarks, and students have countered antisemitic online statements through protest art. The Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs at Colby has also hosted conversations with key figures, such as former ACLU president Nadine Strossen, on ways of opposing hate. Colby College’s former President, William Adams, also spoke to the Associated Press on the importance of striking a middle ground between meeting the needs of a diverse student body without creating a culture of fear of expression.

3. The City University of New York, Baruch College

New York City, New York

Website

In 2023, the City University of New York system announced it would provide over $750,000 to 24 colleges to address bias and bigotry. The City University of New York, Baruch College was specifically highlighted as being designated to use a portion of this funding to “organize focus groups and facilitate discussions on campus” and provide enhanced diversity, equity, and inclusivity training and support. Later, in 2023, the college’s Office of Diversity, Compliance, and Equity Initiatives promoted the Blue Square Campaign, which encouraged the college community to wear and post to social media blue squares, which indicate support for Jewish members of the City University of New York system. In 2020, the college’s then-new president launched initiatives to make the campus more welcoming. Hillel International names The City University of New York, Baruch College, a current partner in its Campus Climate Initiative.

2. University of California, Davis

Davis, California

Website

In 2022, the University of California, Davis, announced the Hate-Free Together Campaign, which saw the college partner with the city of Davis and Yolo County to combat rising hate incidents and prioritize well-being. Initially, this campaign targeted individuals, public agencies, and businesses. They provide training, community workshops, and educational resources. In late 2023, the college’s chancellor said the campaign would provide new resources in 2024. Not In Our Town highlights how University of California, Davis students have successfully sought to improve safety features on campus, such as increased lighting and emergency call boxes after instances of hate speech and hate crime. The college is also currently participating in the Hillel International Campus Climate Initiative.

1. American University

Washington, DC

Website

In 2024, the American University stated that it had formed a 10-month partnership with the University of Chicago to gather data that assess the campus climate for Jewish students. The findings intended to be used to create resources that address antisemitism and other forms of hate. A 2023 signature research initiative at the college also studied the evolution of antisemitic hate speech and trope evolution. The aim is to develop AI detection tools, which also have the goal of being expanded toward other forms of hate. The college’s Elevate Scholarship Initiative has also funded a student, Meaghan Reilly, to research how online message boards can increase hate speech and radicalization aimed at women. Not In Our Town adapted statements by American University’s student government president and a faculty and staff joint opinion piece to provide templates for other student organizations and faculty members to denounce hate speech. The college is also currently participating in the Hillel International Campus Climate Initiative.

Related Resources:

Sources: