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2021 FIRE Campus Free Speech Survey: Widespread College Student Support For Censorship, Including Violence and Disruptions

2021 FIRE Campus Free Speech Survey: Widespread College Student Support For Censorship, Including Violence and Disruptions

Two-thirds of students say it is acceptable to shout down a speaker to prevent them from speaking on campus, almost one in four say it is acceptable to use violence to stop a campus speech, sharply up 5 percentage points from last year’s 18%.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), the nation’s premier organization supporting campus free speech and academic freedom, has released its 2021 College Free Speech Rankings.

Last year, we reported on the 2020 Rankings mostly as regards Cornell University, Cornell ranks low in campus free speech survey, abysmal on student free expression (Sept. 2020).

This year, Cornell was a repeat offender, a topic I’ll likely get into in more depth in the future. For now, it’s worth noting that Cornell comes in at 82 out of 159 schools surveyed. Note that these highlight stats are expressed in a way that doesn’t fully focus on the negative — when 33% say it’s never acceptable to disrupt a speaker, that means 67% of students think it’s at least sometimes okay to disrupt, and only 75% says it’s never acceptable to use violence to stop a speaker, which means 25% thinks it’s okay to use violence:


  • 33% of students say it is never acceptable to shoutdown a speaker on campus.
  • 75% of students say it is never acceptable to use violent protest to stop a speech on campus.
  • 74% of students think it is likely that the administration will defend the speaker’s rights in a free speech controversy.
  • Students are most uncomfortable publicly disagreeing with a professor about a controversial topic.
  • Racial inequality is the topic most frequently identified by students as difficult to have an open and honest conversation about

More on Cornell later, this report confirms almost everything I’ve been saying and writing for years about the atmosphere of intolerance and intimidation.

But the big takeaway from the national survey is that large percentages of students endorse violence and shout downs to silence people with whom they disagree. From the full report Executive Summary (emphasis added):

Key findings include:

• Claremont McKenna has the highest-ranked score on the 2021 Free Speech Rankings. The
University of Chicago, the University of New Hampshire, Emory University, and Florida State
University also rank highly.
• DePauw University has the lowest overall score on the Free Speech Rankings for the second year
in a row, confirming its place at the bottom. Marquette University, Louisiana State University,
Wake Forest University, and Boston College are near the bottom of the rankings.
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.
• More than 50% of students identify racial inequality as a difficult topic to discuss on their
• Two in five (40%) students say they are comfortable publicly disagreeing with a professor, down
5 percentage points from last year.
• There are wide differences in support for the speaking rights of controversial speakers on college
campuses, ranging from a low of only 11% of students strongly supporting the rights of a speaker
with the message, “Transgender people have a mental disorder,” to a high of 34% of students
strongly supporting the rights of a speaker with the message, “White people are collectively
responsible for structural racism and use it to protect their privilege.” In each case, though, large
majorities do not strongly support the speaking rights of controversial speakers.
• Political ideology2 was strongly correlated with tolerance or intolerance of controversial
conservative speakers3 and liberal speakers.4
Two-thirds of students (66%) say it is acceptable to shout down a speaker to prevent them from
speaking on campus, up 4 percentage points from last year.
Almost one in four (23%) say it is acceptable to use violence to stop a campus speech, sharply up
5 percentage points from last year’s 18%.
• Only about one-third (32%) of students agree that their college administration makes policies
about free speech either very or extremely clear to the student body.

For at least a generation the radicals who run campuses — faculty, student activists, administrators — have infused intolerance and tendencies towards violence through a culture of victimhood and self-indulgence. It is no surprise that this tendency towards intolerance now dominates high tech and the media.

It’s often said that collapse happens very slowly, then very rapidly. We are now in the very rapid phase of the collapse of campus and societal free expression.

[Featured Image: Middlebury College students shout down speaker]


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“Widespread college student support for censorship”

There is? Well, in that case, I support censoring those students. They would have no reason to complain.

    JHogan in reply to UserP. | September 21, 2021 at 4:20 pm

    The Lefties/Dems/Marxists are not going to like it much if/when the pendulum swings back and their new rules are used against them.

    After struggling to survive from 2016-2020 the American Republic as conceived by the Founding Fathers is officially dead. It could not survive a century of sustained Marxist subversion and sabotage. 2008 marked the beginning of the end.

    What replaces it is now the issue.

    The lesson the world should learn from this is that toleration of Marxism, especially in the universities, is fatal to an open and free republic based on free market capitalism. And that a republic based on universal suffrage may not be such a good idea.

      sestamibi in reply to JHogan. | September 22, 2021 at 2:50 pm

      The thing is they think the pendulum will NEVER swing back. The rule of the party is forever.

      If they engage in violence, it must be resisted with superior force. BAMN.

A school in Wa cancelled a 9/11 tribute involving football team wearing red/white/blue at the home game because someone said it might offend SOMEONE, not a real person, but a hypothetical person. One person on the faculty- who remained unnamed made this decision

Meanwhile- we and multiple other parents screamed up and down that the BLM garbage hung all around school is offensive, inappropriate, applauded a year of violence and we are called racists.

If you think we are not in a civil war, you are living in a 9/10/2001 mindset.

Notice they don’t say debate and facts. Still, think they want to discuss anything?

    In their mind – there is no need for debate.

    My niece recently graduated from Stanford and then got a MA in Education at Harvard, Thinking she would have insights on some of the recent issues in education, I asked her about the Harvard case involving Asian discrimination in admissions (she is also 50% Asian). She refused to discuss the issue claiming that my history of openness to “right wing ideas” meant that she would be “wasting her time”. I told I am open to all ideas – which people who know me well know is true. It just that I do not dismiss ideas solely because I they favor or disfavor any particular ideology.

    She shut down the discuss in a preemptive assumption that my view would differ from hers.

    So this what they teach now at Stanford and Harvard ? It is a chilling effect on the flow of ideas.

      SeiteiSouther in reply to Ben Kent. | September 21, 2021 at 4:49 pm

      Your niece is extremely closed minded, and that education she received did her no favors.

      hrhdhd in reply to Ben Kent. | September 21, 2021 at 5:59 pm

      I could tell she’s not bright by the fact that she wanted a Master’s in Education. A more worthless degree would be hard to find. (Maybe “Dr.” Jill’s EdD!)

The Dhimmi-crats’ propagandists (AKA, “teachers” and “professors”) at indoctrination factories (AKA, “schools,” “colleges” and “universities”) across the land are toiling away at a furious pace, dutifully churning out the next generation of goose-stepping, vindictive, infantile, bullying, totalitarian, intolerant, Maoist, brownshirted thugs.

Leftists Seminaries are accomplishing their job, indoctrination of American kids into little Marxists.

“Almost one in four (23%) say it is acceptable to use violence to stop a campus speech”

Oh my, those peace loving students.! When they say they support free speech, they mean for themselves, not for others. Free speech concerning a topic they disagree with is enough to trigger violence.

    There is a dividing line between “Loud-mouthed (censored) who claims something” and “Violent idiot who actually does it.” I suspect most of the 23% there are on the loud-mouth end. For the rest, a simple statement made by the president of the university and backed up by action will suffice.

    “Anybody who uses violence against a speaker at the university will be prosecuted and expelled, and no refunds for any tuition or fees will be given.”

      Yet they demand civility from opposing view points and play the victim of hatred if you use “aggressive language.”

      Note the quotes- I’ve seen this twice in the past week.

      tbonesays in reply to georgfelis. | September 22, 2021 at 5:21 pm

      To my knowledge there has never been disciplinary actions taken against those who shout down and censor other speakers

      That is because conservative students don’t do that. If they broke up a BLM gathering the Us would instantly discover that they have strict policies on allowing the free speech of others.

My alma mater is pictured. What an utter disgrace it’s become, like the rest of the northeastern Academy. I wouldn’t give them a red cent in alumni contributions or bequests. I would pay my kids not to attend this place. Truly shameful.

Even back in the late 1980’s the university I attended was clearly going down this road. I couldn’t stand the majority of faculty and many of the students. I didn’t sign up to become a mostly unemployable radical asshole.

After one semester, I decided to drop out and go to a Technical/Trade School. Best career decision I ever made.

The American Cultural Revolution and Woke Leap Forward is ‘progressing’ nicely.

Comrade Xi approves. Comrade Mao would be pleased.

However. the students may not, at first, like it when the new ‘progressive’ dress code is imposed. But they’ll get used to it. They’ll have several slightly different shades of green and red to chose from.

Reagan visited the University of South Carolina in 84.
The protesters outside the Horseshoe were chanting “One two three four…we don’t want your dirty war!”
All five were soon surrounded by students chanting “USA! USA! USA!”
Two left the scene with bloody noses.
Never saw them again.
God, has campus life changed!

Find it hard to believe that Berkeley is higher on the free speech scale than LSU or Tulane. But, there it is.

All those on favor of violence to squelch speach do not mean they believe in their own speach being censored or should I say “slapped down”?

Resist diversity [dogma] (i.e. color judgment), including: racism, sexism, ageism. #HateLovesAbortion

The Pro-Choice religion denies human dignity and agency, and reduces human life to a negotiable asset.

It’s up to alumni and taxpayers to pressure public Universities and State legislatures to halt and reverse this. Start taking away their funding. Simply require public Universities to sign and implement the free speech policies of the University of Chicago.

These policies are not controversial outside academic enclaves where the Overton window has narrowed. Everyday taxpayers will overwhelmingly support such a common sense policy. They will be horrified at any University who resists.

The Left has shown that for many free speech was never a principle but only for a tactic. When it worked to their political favor (because they would have been the ones shut up) they were in favor, but now that they are confident they have the power (in some domains, at least) to determine who may speak and what may be said they’re against it.

Who was it who said “Democracy is like a train: you take it to get where you want to be and then you get off?” Few ride trains for the pleasure of doing so; for most they are a means to and end and not an end in themselves. And so, too, with free speech.

As for defunding colleges, it is an outrage that the public is taxed to support this intellectual corruption, but, until colleges’ effective monopoly on professional credentials is broken students will continue to pay whatever they must to obtain the credentials they need.

    henrybowman in reply to Albigensian. | September 22, 2021 at 9:49 pm

    “When it worked to their political favor (because they would have been the ones shut up) they were in favor, but now that they are confident they have the power (in some domains, at least) to determine who may speak and what may be said they’re against it.”

    Frank Herbert explained it best.

    (I wish this website allowed the posting of modest images so people wouldn’t have to be forced to follow links just to see them. I believe it did way back when, as I remember posting an image of John Brown’s hanging. The bandwidth argument is a non-starter, when you look at the all the chittering ads we put up with now. How about it?)

It’s going to be cute if these little fascists try to take their “revolution” into working class communities that have the will and the means to stomp them into dust. But from what I’ve noticed if you even raise your voice at them they wet their pants and go crying to the nearest authority figure to make the meanies stop “attacking them.” They’re even more fun to watch when you make the finger shooting gesture at them and say, “one shot center of mass, just like we were trained to do.”

The scope of the debate and the battleground have shifted. It used to be that a “big name” was invited to campus as a guest to give a talk. Regardless of whether that person was planning to talk about race relations, police relations, or some other topic of interest to the left, he or she would be attacked for representing the non-left point of view in prior events. Hence, their speech needed to be disrupted, regardless of the announced topic.

Today, instead of spending energy on preventing such outside speakers, the emphasis has been on mandatory CRT training during new student orientation or mandatory anti-racism classes as graduation requirements. In these settings, there is no danger of an opposing view being presented and if the audience does not agree with the material, they will get an F and not graduate. So, we are shifting from freedom of speech to freedom of thought and freedom of inqury.