Fact Check: 'Free Speech' Sign On Campus Did NOT Say 'You're Not Ready For University Yet'

Fact Check

  • by: Uliana Malashenko

STORY UPDATED: check for updates below.

Fact Check: 'Free Speech' Sign On Campus Did NOT Say 'You're Not Ready For University Yet' Altered

Did a "free speech" sign on a campus say "You're not ready for university yet"? No, that's not true: The image was digitally altered to replace the original content. The sign was first photographed in January 2022, not in 2024.

The claim appeared in a post (archived here) on Facebook on April 3, 2024. The caption said:

These should be posted all over the place at every university.

The post contained an image showing a sign that read:

If you (or someone you know) are

affected by a free speech event on campus,

Call your parents and

ask them to come and

take you home.

You are not ready for

university yet.

This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of the writing of this fact check:

Screen Shot 2024-04-05 at 11.22.58 AM.png

Twitter screenshot(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Fri Apr 5 15:22:58 2024 UTC)

A closer look at the image showed several irregularities. The bottom of some letters on the second line was smudged; a capital letter appeared in the middle of the sentence against grammar rules; and the font of the top paragraph was different from the rest of the text. Furthermore, the green background in the middle of the sign didn't show any reflections or shadows typically seen in authentic images of objects photographed in natural light in the street.

Screen Shot 2024-04-05 at 11.07.21 AM.png

Twitter screenshot(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Fri Apr 5 15:22:58 2024 UTC)

The bottom left corner of the post contained an attribution: the tpusa_rockies account on Instagram, affiliated with Turning Point USA. This is an American conservative group with a lengthy history of spreading false claims.

On January 24, 2022, this account on Instagram posted an image of a green sign (archived here) at Colorado State University that had a first sentence similar to the sign seen on Facebook, but the rest of its content was different:

Screen Shot 2024-04-05 at 10.01.26 AM.png

(Source: Instagram screenshot taken on Fri Apr 5 14:01:26 2024 UTC)

The 2022 post on Instagram, seen in the screenshot above and subsequent media reports, appeared to mock the sign's content while also omitting key context.

For instance, Turning Point USA, the group associated with the Instagram account that posted the image, runs a so-called "Professor Watchlist," which, as described by the Anti-Defamation League (archived here), "seeks to 'expose' professors who allegedly 'discriminate against conservative students and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.'" As previously reported by The Guardian (archived here), the group targeted many academicians who were nonwhite or represented historically marginalized communities.

Fox News, The Daily Mail and Reason all covered the "free-speech-event" sign's appearance in 2022, but none of them mentioned the supposed "You're not ready for university yet" inscription cited in the 2024 post on Facebook.

On January 29, 2022, Fox News (archived here) aired a report about the sign, citing a Colorado State University spokesperson who specifically addressed its content:

The sign is a list of some of the many resources available to our students. It is not related to any event in particular, but rather is intended to share resources knowing that protected speech will always, and must always, be part of higher education.

On January 30, 2022, the photo of the sign offering resources was republished by the Daily Mail (archived here). A day later, the libertarian website Reason (archived here) did the same.

Lead Stories contacted Colorado State University for a response to the claim on Facebook that the sign had said "You're not ready for university yet." On April 5, 2024, Director of Issues Management Dell Rae Ciaravola (archived here) confirmed via email that the claim is false:

The image referencing parents is altered and is not an actual sign. The sign listing office contact information was briefly used years ago but has been discontinued. Current signs are attached, and here's a link to CSU's first amendment site. Freedom of speech is vital to CSU's core values and mission.

The document Ciaravola attached about free speech at Colorado State University can be read here.

A digitally altered version of a sign that read "You're not ready for university yet" has been circulating online since 2022. The earliest version of it (archived here) found by Lead Stories was posted on Imgur in October of that year under the title "Unfortunately not true" -- a clear statement that it was not an authentic image:

Screen Shot 2024-04-05 at 11.53.23 AM.png

(Source: Imgur screenshot taken on Fri Apr 5 15:53:23 2024 UTC)

Other Lead Stories fact checks of claims that involve free-speech issues can be found here.


  • 2024-04-06T00:27:11Z 2024-04-06T00:27:11Z
    Clarifies nature of Colorado State University document

Want to inform others about the accuracy of this story?

See who is sharing it (it might even be your friends...) and leave the link in the comments.:

  Uliana Malashenko

Uliana Malashenko is a New York-based freelance writer and fact checker.

Read more about or contact Uliana Malashenko

About Us

International Fact-Checking Organization Meta Third-Party Fact Checker

Lead Stories is a fact checking website that is always looking for the latest false, misleading, deceptive or inaccurate stories, videos or images going viral on the internet.
Spotted something? Let us know!.

Lead Stories is a:


Subscribe to our newsletter

* indicates required

Please select all the ways you would like to hear from Lead Stories LLC:

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. For information about our privacy practices, please visit our website.

We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By clicking below to subscribe, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing. Learn more about Mailchimp's privacy practices here.

Most Read

Most Recent

Share your opinion