Free speech has been endangered on the college campus for years, but this recent study shows just how bad things are getting:
Many U.S. college professors now regularly share their own social and political beliefs in class, and their students feel increasingly afraid to disagree. That’s according to a new national survey of undergraduates due out next week.
When students were asked if they’ve had “any professors or course instructors that have used class time to express their own social or political beliefs that are completely unrelated to the subject of the course,” 52% of respondents said that this occurs “often,” while 47% responded, “not often.”
A majority—53%—also reported that they often “felt intimidated” in sharing their ideas, opinions or beliefs in class because they were different from those of the professors. A slightly larger majority feared expressing themselves because of differences with classmates. On this question 54% said they often felt intimidated in expressing themselves when their views conflicted with those of their peers, compared to 44% who said they didn’t often feel this way.
As for the students, there’s at least a mixed message in the latest survey results. On the downside, the fact that so many students are afraid of disagreeing with their peers does not suggest a healthy intellectual atmosphere even outside the classroom. There’s more disappointing news in the answers to other survey questions. For example, 59% of respondents agreed with this statement:
My college or university should forbid people from speaking on campus who have a history of engaging in hate speech.
This column does not favor hatred, nor the subjective definition of “hate speech” by college administrators seeking to regulate it. In perhaps the most disturbing finding in the poll results, 33% of U.S. college students participating in the survey agreed with this statement:
If someone is using hate speech or making racially charged comments, physical violence can be justified to prevent this person from espousing their hateful views.
An optimist desperately searching for a silver lining would perhaps note that 60% of respondents did not agree that physical violence is justified to silence people speaking what someone has defined as “hate speech” or “racially charged” comments. But the fact that a third of college students at least theoretically endorse violence as a response to offensive speech underlines the threat to free expression on American campuses.
The intimidation, by the way, is not an “accident.” It is very intentional.