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Cornell ranks low in campus free speech survey, abysmal on student free expression

Cornell ranks low in campus free speech survey, abysmal on student free expression

Cornell ranked 40th out of 55 schools surveyed. Cornell has a problem. The administration not only doesn’t acknowledge the problem, it is a major part of the problem.

It’s not like I told you so, but I told you so.

For years I have been documenting the increasingly oppressive atmosphere for free speech at Cornell University, including shout-downs and disruptions of conservative and/or pro-Israel speakers and events. That atmosphere now is in overdrive with a push from the top-down of the admninistration to turn the campus into an exercise is activism, Cornell University takes a major step towards compulsory racial activism for faculty, students, and staff.

I will have a lot more on this in the coming weeks, including how a set of Demands by some faculty, staff, and students, including unlawful race-based hiring and promotion, is driving the agenda as the university converts itself into a massive struggle session guided by Ibram Kendi’s ‘How To Be An Antiracist’:

“The only remedy to racist discrimination is antiracist discrimination. The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.”

The attempt to ‘cancel‘ me is a symptom of the demand for ideological orthodoxy on campus. Not only was I denounced by the law school Dean for criticizing Black Lives Matter, a Chemistry Professor was denounced by the President of the University and other senior officials for supporting police conduct at a BLM protest in Buffalo. Yet there has been no denunciation of the professors who signed the Demands which, if implemented, not only would violate the law but would be contrary to Cornell non-discrimination policy. This sets a tone on campus, and students (and unprotected staff and faculty) get the message loud and clear.

My observations that students are scared into silence, and feel the repression, is confirmed by a survey just released which ranks Cornell 40th out of 55 campuses surveyed.

A national campus survey just released by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (the “FIRE”), College Pulse, and Real Clear Education, conducted largest ever free speech survey of college students and rankings of campuses. Among the many findings:


Fully 60% of students reported feeling that they could not express an opinion because of how students, a professor, or their administration would respond. This number is highest among “strong Republicans” (73%) and lowest among “strong Democrats” (52%). Black students are most likely to report an instance where they censored themselves (63%).

Just 15% of students reported feeling very comfortable publicly disagreeing with a professor about a controversial topic. Only 11% of female students reported this, compared to 19% of male students.

Opposing viewpoints

Students reported an alarming willingness to shut down certain speakers: 87% of students reported that Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders should be allowed to share his views on campus, but only 69% said the same for President Donald Trump and 78% for former Vice President Joe Biden. Students identifying as Republican or Independent were more tolerant of speakers than Democratic students: 71% of strong Republicans support Biden coming to campus, compared to 49% of strong Democrats reporting the same for Trump.

  • Female students reported less tolerance for speakers than male students.
  • LGBT students reported less tolerance for speakers than straight students.
  • Black students reported less tolerance than Hispanic, Asian, or white students.

The survey finds that intolerance is the norm, particularly among liberal students at elite universities:

The difference in support for other forms of protest are even more varied:

  • More than 60% of extreme liberals said it’s “always” or “sometimes” acceptable to shout down a speaker; compared to 15% for extreme conservatives.
  • 37% of Ivy League students say that shouting down a speaker is “always” or “sometimes” acceptable, compared to 26% of students not enrolled at Ivy League colleges. When it comes to removing flyers, the figures are 37% to 28%.
  • Almost 1 in 5 Ivy League students find it “always” or “sometimes” acceptable to block other students from entering a campus event, compared to roughly 1 in 10 of non-Ivy students.​

More than 40% of college students identified race as a topic that is difficult to have an open and honest conversation about on campus, a figure that rises to 66% for black students. Similarly, 45% of students reported that they do not feel they could have an open and honest discussion about abortion on their campus. The Israeli/Palestinian conflict is particularly difficult to discuss at elite colleges in the Ivy League.

The  dedicated website (and full report) rank 55 campuses. The top (most free) and bottom (least free) campuses were:

The top five colleges for free speech: 

  1. The University of Chicago (Green)
  2. Kansas State University (Green)
  3. Texas A&M University (Green)
  4. University of California, Los Angeles (Green)
  5. Arizona State University (Red)

The worst colleges for free speech: 

  1. Syracuse University (Yellow)
  2. Dartmouth College (Yellow)
  3. Louisiana State University (Red)
  4. University of Texas (Red)
  5. DePauw University (Red)

You can see the full rankings here.

Cornell was ranked 40th out of the 55 schools surveyed. Here is the Cornell write up:


  • 29% of students say it is never acceptable to shoutdown a speaker on campus.
  • 48% of students are confident that the administration will defend the speaker’s rights in a free speech controversy.
  • 81% of students say it is never acceptable to use violent protest to stop a speech on campus.
  • Students are most uncomfortable expressing an unpopular opinion on a social media account tied to one’s name.
  • Affirmative action is the topic most frequently identified by students as difficult to have an open and honest conversation about on campus.

Here is the breakdown. Note the very low score for self-expression I have highlighted. Self-expression is defined in the survey as:

“Self-Expression measures the proportion of students who do not report feeling unable to share their perspective at their college. This score is out of 100 points.”

Cornell’s self-expression score is 35.3, meaning that 64.7 percent of students do not feel free to share their perspective.

Here are some of the student Cornell comments reported in the report:

“I have been shouted down by other students for supporting the candidacy of Mike Bloomberg”
– Class of 2020

“Governor Scott Walker came to speak on campus. We were assigned extra credit if we attended. In our following class, our “Socialist” teacher began the class by aruptly bashing Walker for everything from his foreign policy all the way down to his beliefs (Political, Social, ect). The professor went on to give unproven statements and false facts to the class as to why Walker is incorrect. The entire class sided with her, and the privileged white students concededly showed their socialistic proudness as they sport Louis Vuitton, Burberry and other luxury items that contradict the ideals of a true socialist country. A simple example of colleges brainwashing. Not to mention that they brought two guest speakers to our class who reffered to eachother as “comrade” and wanted to spread the belief of communism! My grandparents would be rolling in their graves if they heard this. Thanks Cornell!”
– Class of 2021

“Even though I am more left-leaning than right leaning, I have found that most of my peers seem to be very extreme in their liberal mindsets and do not tolerate any amount of political discussion that does not confirm the viewpoint they already hold. I am very willing to discuss and consider opinions of conservatives as I believe that non-judgmental conversation is the only way to truly reach a compromise. However, every time I attempt to hold a conversation that asks others to consider why people do not agree with them and that there could be merit to both sides of the spectrum, I get accused of supporting racism, sexism, etc., which could not be further from the truth.”
– Class of 2022

“It happens daily. When talking to other students it is simply assumed that the student is liberal. During my first week of freshman year, I was asked, unprompted, what my opinions were on the wage gap. I stated that I believed the evidence pointed more so to differences in wage based on measures that had nothing to do with discrimination. I was immediately yelled at, called a misogynist, and shunned by a group of 15 people on my dorm floor, being known as “sexist (my name)” for the rest of the year.”
– Class of 2021

“Many of my friends are fairly anti-capitalist and anti-government. They compare the United States to China in terms of administration. I find this wrong and disrespectful and minimizes the legitimate struggles and actual genocide being performed in China. I also believe that conservatives often have a valid viewpoint even if I don’t necessarily agree with it and many of my friends disagree. It is hard to feel that my viewpoints are different from the radical left that many people I know and on campus express”
– Class of 2020

“I was enrolled in a social inequality class and disagreed with some of the students in the class about income inequality and wealth disparity. Some students in the class were very verbally hostile which made me feel uncomfortable opening up my views for discussion in class.”
– Class of 2020

“i largely keep to myself regarding some political views i have when i would rather be more active in some way regarding them because i feel that the campus’ climate is too hostile towards those in the perceived political minority (conservatives)”
– Class of 2022

These comments ring true, and are similar to what students tell me privately.

Cornell has a problem. The administration not only doesn’t acknowledge the problem, it is a major part of the problem.


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Professor been here since pretty much the beginning twice a day every day.
Hang in as long as you can but remember nothing lasts forever sadly.

When I went to college in the ’70s, being “radical” was fashionable. Fortunately for me, most of my classes were in the Science Building, which had neither politics nor grade inflation.

Professor Jacobson, been following your site since 2012. After reading this and other articles, I do hope you have a Plan B. Hope I’m wrong, (really!) but your denouement may be on the horizon with this university — unless your online fame saves you :-).

    notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital in reply to PoliticalWoman. | September 29, 2020 at 8:23 pm

    Why shouldn’t Professor Jacobson join with a major publisher and offer classes for college credit online?

    The best textbook publishers are bleeding losses like crazy. So they can use the tuition money more than “colleges.”

    Cengage has the most advanced software for that that I know of and and have always valued customer service highly. They have the software to do the courseware,

    The accrediting societies are a fraud – giving 10 years of approval between visits in some cases.

    I’m working on such things now, but Professor Jacobson can have my copyright permission – for free.

    It would be great to work with a “conservative” publisher or gain controlling interest in say Cengage and make it conservative. It often takes only around 10% stock ownership and a board member or two in your favor to effectively control a public Corporation.

    Prof Jacobson has stated he has something somewhat equivalent to tenure, and this is what has ‘saved’ him from the multiple attempts to cancel him.

This is about money. MONEY. Period.

The overpaid, under-qualified admin of these schools are in on the scam.

Charging $200,000 for lesbian studies Phds(all funded by federal loans) has paid these corrupt swines very well – an enslaved the students who graduate with degrees useless, other than to use to teach other suckers lesbian studies and the like.

    notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital in reply to | September 29, 2020 at 8:39 pm

    Agreed. They are incompetent and crooked.

    Have you seen this breaking news from Ace of Spades?

    “Bill Richardson — Corrupt Clinton Administration Fixer and Former Governor of New Mexico — Accused of Rampant Bribe-Taking, Including in the Form of “Sexual Services and Favors”
    Scumbag, pedophile, and high Democrat official.”

I’m less than impressed with the rankings. While Cornell has issues, big ones, so do many of those ahead of them on the list.

    Carl in reply to Barry. | September 30, 2020 at 8:41 am

    I agree, Barry. It is hard to rank the different levels in a latrine.
    As a Cornell alum I follow events on campus pretty closely. The school has been run by Maoist Red Guards for a long time. Decades. The term “Big Red” is no longer a nickname. I have strongly discouraged my grandchildren from applying.

      Barry in reply to Carl. | September 30, 2020 at 2:37 pm

      I feel for you. My school is not high on the list but I know it is better than the ranking.

      “It is hard to rank the different levels in a latrine.”

      I’m stealing that 🙂

More than 40% of college students identified race as a topic that is difficult to have an open and honest conversation about on campus, a figure that rises to 66% for black students.

The logical reaction to this finding, and “especially” (to use the current buzzword) the even greater discomfort of black students, is to create opportunities to avoid these discussions.

Not to surrender to communist “BLM” and infuse these discussions everywhere. BLM’s “demands” are a good list of things not to do.