Survey: 80% of Students are “self-censoring their viewpoints”, Many Feel Uncomfortable Speaking Up In Class


by Ben Zeisloft, Activist Post:

Four in five college students in the United States report censoring their own views while 48% say they are uncomfortable “expressing [their] views on a controversial political topic during an in-class discussion” in a recent survey.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), alongside RealClearEducation and College Pulse, conducted a survey of 37,000 college students enrolled at 159 universities. Among other questions — which were ultimately used to weigh American universities according to their commitments to free speech — the groups tracked students’ willingness to express their ideas.


More than 80% of students “report self-censoring their viewpoints at their colleges at least some of the time, with 21% saying they censor themselves often.”

To that end, only 12% of students report feeling “very comfortable” with “publicly disagreeing with a professor about a controversial topic.”

When asked to identify such uncomfortable topics, 45% of surveyed students identified “abortion.” 43% chose “race,” 41% chose “gun control,” and 40% chose “transgender issues.”

33% of students surveyed felt that it is “always acceptable” or “sometimes acceptable” to shout down a campus speaker in order to “prevent them from speaking on campus.”

However, 93% of students believe it’s not acceptable to use violence in order to stop a campus speech, according to the report.

[RELATED: OP-ED: The Heckler’s Veto is the Poisonous Fruit of the Marketplace of Ideas]

As Suffolk University adjunct instructor Ken Tashjy recently wrote for Campus Reform, the “heckler’s veto” is pervasive in higher education and the the acceptability of “shouting down a speaker or trying to prevent them from speaking on campus,” results differed across schools.

“First, and foremost, higher education must challenge and correct the misperceptions many students harbor about the First Amendment and the speech protections it affords,” Tashjy writes. “These responses reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of the First Amendment and the protections it affords, even to unpopular or controversial speech, including so called ‘hate speech.’”

He continued, “These attitudes have clearly contributed to the steady uptick in the use of the heckler’s veto to suppress and censor speech on college campuses.”

Indeed, the FIRE survey shows that at Wesleyan University and the University of California-Berkeley, 82% and 80% of students, respectively, believe that shouting down a guest speaker is acceptable to some degree.

The culture of the “heckler’s veto” was vibrant on other campuses as well; for example, 52% “strongly oppose” the invitation of a speaker who would argue that “transgender people have a mental disorder.”

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