Guide to Colleges Methodology

The Heterodox Academy Guide to Colleges is a unique resource for a variety of audiences. To aggregate information from various sources we use a simple methodology:

We converted each source into a number ranging from 0 (most inimical to viewpoint diversity) to +1 (most supportive of viewpoint diversity), multiplied each by a weight (a number between 10 and 25, showing the percent of the total score represented by this component) and added up the values to create a “Heterodoxy Score” that runs from 0 to 100. The information sources used in our guide are:


1. Endorsed Chicago: Whether the university has endorsed the Chicago Principles on free expression (Yes = +1, no = 0). This is not about what policies regarding free speech are on the books, the FIRE rating takes care of that. Nor is it about whether the President has said something positive about free speech in a lecture or an op-ed.

This item is about whether the faculty senate or some other official body has made a strong affirmative commitment in the last few years to protecting free speech, including the expression of very unpopular views. We would give credit for enacting a policy other than the Chicago policy if it were equally strong and unambiguous. The key point about the University of Chicago principles is that the school has stated clearly that it provides a platform for free expression upon which its members can debate; the university itself does not take sides in these debates. (We believe this is crucial to avoid the “moral dependency” that can arise in a community in which members are incentivized to strive to bring down official punishment upon their enemies.)

Overall, the Chicago score contributes a 10 point bonus to scores if a school has endorsed these guidelines but schools lose no points if they have not endorsed them.

2. FIRE Rating: Obtained from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).

     RED: At least one policy clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech and expression. (0 points)
     WARNING: Values other than the right to free speech and expression are prioritized. (0)
     YELLOW: Policies that restrict a more limited amount of protected expression or, due to vague wording, could restrict protected expression. (.25)
     GREEN: No serious threats to speech. (+1)
     UNRATED: No FIRE rating of speech policies. (.5 points)

Overall, the FIRE rating contributes 30% of the overall Heterodoxy score for each school, given that their research covers a variety of factors.

3. ISI Rating: Obtained from the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) guide to Choosing the Right College 2014-15.

A guide aimed at conservative and libertarian students. We presume that open-minded progressive students would prefer not to attend a school at which students who are not on the left are hesitant to speak up.

     RED: Unsafe zone (0 points)
     YELLOW: Potentially unsafe (.25 points)
     GREEN: Generally safe (+1)
     UNRATED: No ISI rating (.5 points)

Overall, the ISI rating contributes 25% of the overall Heterodoxy score for each school.

4. Relevant Events Since 2014: Schools start with a rating of .5. Events on campus that indicate a commitment by faculty, administration and/or students to protect free inquiry and viewpoint diversity are labeled GREEN (+.25 each). If events indicate a restriction or punish dissent, they are labeled RED (-.25 each). We break out events by their source (students, faculty or administration) and ignore events that involve just a few students or professors, choosing instead to focus on those indicating broader sentiment, norms, or policy. The overall relevant event scores range from a minimum of 0 to a maximum of 1.  

Example: The support of a college paper by the President of Wesleyan University in light of calls for censorship and vandalism after an objectionable op-ed.
Example: The University of Missouri police asks individuals who witness incidents of hateful and/or hurtful speech to immediately call the campus police station (or 911).

Overall, the Relevant Events contributes 45% (Students are 20%, Admin are 15% and Faculty is 10%) as of the overall Heterodoxy score for each school given that they are the most up-to-date and relevant indicators for the current climate on campus.

We add a caveat to the relevant events, penalizing schools by 3 points for each instance where the “heckler’s veto” is employed to cut short or stop a speaker from delivering their remarks. We further deduct 6 points from the overall Heterodoxy score if there is an assault on individuals (as defined legally) or significant property damage.

Our methodology is the sum of four to five predictors and your experience may be different than what our findings represent as the climate on a particular campus.

Update Schedule


Edition 1.1:

We expect that our second edition will be reliable enough to help high school seniors decide where to apply and to help everyone see which schools are most likely to offer viewpoint diversity.

This second edition will include a re-weighted methodology allowing for a better balance of considerations around what schools are credited or penalized for. We will also catalog and count speaker disinvitations, among additional factors, to provide an improved picture of a school’s degree of viewpoint diversity on campus.

We hope to also incorporate whether a school has been declared a Heterodox University. Our Relevant Events column will also be broken out by examples by faculty/administration and also by the student body/student groups.

Anticipated Release: June 19, 2017