UO ranked worst school in country for viewpoint diversity: report

The University of Oregon — well known for its liberal student body — is ranked the worst major college in the U.S. for viewpoint diversity, according to a new report from the Heterodox Academy.

UO sits at the bottom of the list of 152 schools with enough information to compile a score. Out of a possible 100, UO scored only 15. Rounding out the bottom of the list were Harvard University (16), UC Berkeley (16), Northwestern University (19), New York University (20).

University of Chicago, where President Michael Schill worked prior to UO, topped the list with a score of 98.  George Mason University, College of William and Mary and the University of Tennessee- Knoxville all tied for second place.

Researchers admit that quantifying viewpoint diversity is difficult. The purpose of the guide is to enable high school seniors to avoid the “walking on eggshells” culture in much of higher education today.

Heterodox Academy, a group of 925 academic members interested in viewpoint diversity, used four factors to determine the score for each school: whether the university had endorsed the Chicago Principles of free expression, the FIRE rating for the school, the ISI (Intercollegiate Studies Institute) rating and any events relevant to free expression since 2014.

UO has fared poorly in FIRE’s ranking, appearing in the list of the 10 worst schools for free speech each of the last two years. Each university’s fire ranking makes up 30 percent of their HxA score.

In 2017, FIRE gave UO yellow light ratings for its facilities scheduling policy and its broad language used in the harassment and discrimination complaint and response policies.

Laura Beltz, a member of the policy reform team at FIRE, said the main issue with the policies is definitions that are much broader than Supreme Court definitions. She suggested that UO adopts definitions that line up with Supreme Court standards.

The ISI guide is an admittedly partisan, right-leaning evaluation of universities in America. Its influence contributes 25 percent of the HxA score.

In addition to outside evaluations, HxA examined events that occurred on campus which included students, faculty or administrators. This test contributed 45 percent of the overall score but events involving students were weighted more heavily than those involving professors or administrators.

HxA didn’t find any incidents involving students or faculty but three relevant events involving administrators resulted in a “red” rank.

Events included a clash between students, a UOPD officer and an anti-abortion activist and the subsequent Jefferson Muzzles award handed out in response as well as interference in student life by the Bias Response Team — which the university has taken measures to investigate.

The final test used by HxA is whether universities embrace the Chicago Principles of free expression. This is a bonus test where universities are rewarded for embracing them or similarly strong policies but do not lose any points for failure to adhere to the principles.

UO Faculty Senate Vice President Bill Harbaugh wrote on his blog that, “It’s a little unfair to criticize us for not endorsing the Chicago statement on academic freedom. The UO Senate has enacted much stronger free-speech and academic freedom policies than Chicago,” but added, “It’s just that our administration feels free to break them when convenient.”

Follow Max Thornberry on Twitter @Max_Thornberry


**A previous version of this story referred to Bill Harbaugh as the Faculty Senate President. His title has been updated.

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Max Thornberry

Max Thornberry

Senior News Editor. Baseball Fan. Martial Artist. Lover of books and words. Follow him on Twitter @Max_Thornberry

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