Colleges Embrace Free Speech Way More Than You’ve Heard

If you listen to conservative media, you might have the impression that American college campuses have become wildly liberal anti-free speech zones. However, Vox looked at a few studies on the subject and found that college students, college grads and liberals are all still significantly more accepting of free speech Ė even speech they disagree with Ė than non-college students, non-college grads and conservatives.

Sure, weíve all seen the stories about scheduled neo-Nazi speaking events on campus where community members decide to use their own free speech to try to drown out the message of hate and the police deem the situation too volatile and shut it down. Extreme examples like that donít portray the full picture, however.

Letís start with college students themselves. In a Twitter thread, academic Jeffrey Sachs points to a study that shows after just one year of college, students develop a better attitude toward both liberals and conservative perspectives:

DX28GRPWkAEh6aD

Perhaps interacting with people of different backgrounds has a net positive for people getting along? Regardless, that sure doesnít seem like a toxic environment designed to make Americaís young hate the right.

Moreover, a UCLA survey given to students both when they entered college and when they graduated showed that while 62 percent of students thought it was okay for college to ban racist and sexist speech, that number was down to 56 percent in the second go-around. In other words, four years of college made students more tolerant of speech they probably donít agree with.

In other polls, college graduates and liberals of any education level are more likely to agree that even unsavory political speech deserves to have a voice rather than silencing it. These conservative pundits that point at the left and the educated for failing to uphold the First Amendment are quick to blame and are intentionally not looking inward at Republicans who express significantly less acceptance of speech that doesnít jive with their worldview.

It all boils down to hypocrisy. Free speech is important, but if youíre only getting angry when your (perceived) political adversary seems less supportive of speech and ignoring examples of your brethren stifling it, then youíre not really standing for free speech. Also, if the speech youíre most loudly defending is hate speech, itís probably time to reexamine what you stand for altogether.

While college students are more in favor of free speech than the general population, the good news is that overall the general population is more in favor of free speech rights. The downside is that Americans are most likely to decide they donít support free speech when that speech is coming from a Muslim, so weíve obviously still have a good ways to go.

As for the campus debate, Sachs directs our attention to FIREís Disinvitation Database. Out of countless talks at over 4,000 colleges in the U.S., there were just 35 recorded attempts to disinvite a speaker, which hardly seems like an epidemic. Interestingly, while leftists were more likely to have an event cancelled, conservatives were much more successful at actually getting left-leaning figures un-booked at their colleges.

All of that information is to say the idea that college campuses are where free speech goes to die is completely overblown and actually inaccurate. The statistics do not support the idea that hippie professors are trying to brainwash young adults and silence those who donít agree with them. In fact, if you want an environment where free speech seems best protected, a college campus seems like a great place to find it.

44 comments

Lesa D
Lesa D2 months ago

thank you Kevin...

SEND
Sue H
Sue H2 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

SEND
Pat P
Pat P3 months ago

I am more concerned that there is so much HATE speech from all the different bigoted people and groups!
Extensive research shows that Liberal colleges are more likely to allow hate conservative groups than Conservative colleges permitting liberals to speak. Colleges can vary, considerably, with their politics.

SEND
Peggy B
Peggy B3 months ago

Noted

SEND
Winn A
Winnie A3 months ago

Noted

SEND
Lisa M
Lisa M3 months ago

Noted.

SEND
Lisa M
Lisa M3 months ago

Noted.

SEND
Danuta W
Danuta Watola3 months ago

thank you for posting

SEND
John B
John B3 months ago

Thanks Kevin for sharing the facts on the issue.

SEND
Ellie M
Ellie M3 months ago

ty

SEND