Campus Free Speech Rankings: Over 80% of Students Self-Censor Their Viewpoints

66% of all students support shouting speaker shout-downs and 23% support using violence to stop a speaker...

(TheFire.org) Prospective students who want to make sure that their free expression will be protected should consider Claremont McKenna College or the University of Chicago.

But if they land at DePauw University or Marquette University, there’s no guarantee they will be able to speak freely.

That’s because DePauw and Marquette rank dead last in the 2021 College Free Speech Rankings.

Presented by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, College Pulse, and RealClearEducation, the rankings measure a school’s free speech climate based upon the opinions of over 37,000 students at 159 of America’s largest and most prestigious campuses — the largest survey of campus free expression ever performed.

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“Existing ranking systems don’t look at core aspects of a higher education: the ability to think, discuss, and speak freely,” said FIRE Executive Director Robert Shibley. “Our rankings guide prospective students and their parents towards schools that value free speech and open inquiry. They also help us hold schools accountable and demand they do better.”

The report takes into account the varied dimensions of free expression on campus — from the ability to discuss challenging topics like race, gender dynamics, and geo-political conflicts, to whether students hold back from openly sharing their views.

The rankings are designed to help students and parents make enrollment decisions, and score the overall speech climate on each campus.

The top five colleges for free speech:

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1. Claremont McKenna College

2. University of Chicago

3. University of New Hampshire

4. Emory University

5. Florida State University

The worst colleges for free speech:

150. Boston College

151. Wake Forest University

152. Louisiana State University

153. Marquette University

154. DePauw University

“There are fundamental questions that every student should want answered before committing to a college,” said FIRE Senior Research Counsel Adam Goldstein. “The value of higher education comes from developing a fuller understanding of the world by asking questions that challenge the status quo. A college that won’t clearly protect your right to ask those questions is a bad deal, no matter how small the classes are or how nice the stadium is.”

The rankings scoring system is based on seven main components: openness to discussion of controversial topics, tolerance for liberal speakers, tolerance for conservative speakers, administrative support for free speech, comfort expressing ideas publicly, whether there is student support for disruptive conduct during campus speeches, and FIRE’s speech code rating.

Public schools performed better than private schools.

Only 5 of the bottom 30 schools on the list are public.

Other highlights from the report include:

  • 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.
  • Generally, students showed much greater intolerance for campus speakers with conservative positions.
  • Racial inequality, abortion, and gun control top the list of most difficult subjects to discuss.
  • 66% of students support shouting down a campus speaker they don’t agree with and 23% support using violence to stop the speaker — a 5-point increase from FIRE’s 2020 report. Two elite women’s colleges, Wellesley College and Barnard College, top this list at 45% and 43% respectively.
  • Only a third of students agree that their college administration makes policies about free speech either very or extremely clear to the student body.

The data also reveal that students are most uncomfortable expressing their views on social media or when engaging in a public disagreement with a professor.

“The research is clear, and our experience working with these schools confirms it: much of the campus climate for expression is determined by the administration,” said Sean Stevens, FIRE senior research fellow for polling and analytics. “Staking out a leadership position on free speech and open debate resonates with students and has a real effect on a campus’ climate for free expression.”…Original Source

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