It’s that time of year again when the first rounds of college applications are sent out to schools around the world. For many students, the ratings of various colleges are at least on the backs of their minds. There is now a newly announced ranking of schools that every prospective freshman should fully acquaint themselves with, and it paints a very different picture of academia than the snapshot the widely-used US News and World Report rankings list does.

This list most certainly incorporates the US News rankings, but adds its own twist. The Heterodox Academy took the top schools in America as ranked by US News and World Report, and ranked them on their friendliness to free speech. The questions that were considered in its ranking included “Is it a place where you are likely to encounter a variety of views on politically controversial topics? Or do school policies – or the students themselves– impose a rigid political orthodoxy that punishes dissenting opinions and creates a climate in which students are afraid to speak up, even in seminar classes?” In other words, it asked questions that any college should be asking itself on a regular basis (although in reality far too few choose to do so).

The result is, of course, drastically different from the more traditional rankings.

The Heterodox Academy was co-founded by Jonathan Haidt, who co-wrote a viral article on this subject called The Coddling of the American Mind.

This new rankings system has several key components:

  1. Endorsed Chicago: Whether the university has endorsed the Chicago Principles on free expression

  2. FIRE Rating: Whether the school’s speech codes foster or infringe upon free speech. As rated by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

  3. ISI Rating: Is the school a reasonably welcoming place for conservative and libertarian students? Obtained from the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) guide to Choosing the Right College. (We presume that open-minded progressive students would prefer not to attend a school at which students who are not on the left feel unwelcome, and are less likely to speak up.)

  4. Relevant Events Since 2014: Events on campus that indicate a commitment by faculty, administration, and/or students to protect or restrict free inquiry and viewpoint diversity. We ignore events that involve just a few students or professors and focus on those indicating broader sentiment, norms, or policy.

Unsurprisingly, the University of Chicago is ranked at the top of the list. What is noteworthy is how little correlation there is between a high ranking on the US News list and on that of the Heterodox Academy.

When students are deciding where to apply, I urge them to seriously consider these rankings.

For more of my coverage on the Chicago Letter and its aftermath, read on!