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.
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