CV NEWS FEED // A study from the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) has found that an increasing number of college students favor violence to stop campus speech they do not like.
The subjects that students find the most difficult to discuss are abortion, gun rights, racial issues, and “transgenderism.” Nearly half of the students in the study said they had difficulty having conversations about abortion.
Arguably the most alarming finding of the study is that “73% of students said that using violence to stop a campus speech is never acceptable.” This, as FIRE noted, was “down from 80% last year.”
The Media Research Center reported that the study, “conducted January 13 to June 30, 2023 by College Pulse, ranks the free speech cultures of 248 of America’s largest and most prestigious campuses, incorporating survey responses from more than 55,000 current students.”
The results found that of all the included schools, Michigan Tech was the most friendly to free speech, while Harvard, the oldest university in the country, came in last. In fact, the elite Ivy League school was given a score of 0 and was the only school with a speech climate considered “abysmal.”
Auburn University was ranked as the second-best school for free speech, while the University of New Hampshire came in third place.
The other schools that ranked in the top 10 were Oregon State University, Florida State University, the University of Virginia, Texas A&M University, George Mason University, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and the University of Colorado Boulder.
Three Catholic universities were featured in the bottom ten. Two were Jesuit schools: Georgetown University and Fordham University. The other, Duquesne University, is affiliated with the Congregation of the Holy Spirit.
Duquesne made headlines several months ago when reports surfaced that a so-called “Pride Mass” was to take place there. The Mass was canceled following protests from the Bishop of Pittsburgh and the Catholic faithful.
FIRE wrote that the study also found “Self-censorship is pervasive across the board” among the students surveyed.
More than a quarter of students (26%) said they censor themselves at least a few times a week in conversations with friends, and 25% said they are more likely to self-censor now — at the time of responding to the survey — than they were when starting college.
FIRE adds that at Oberlin College, a liberal arts school in Ohio, only just over half “of students said that violence is never acceptable.”
In the past year, more schools were found to have both favorable and unfavorable climates toward free speech. Again, from FIRE:
Of the 248 schools ranked, 73 have “below average,” “poor,” “very poor,” or “abysmal” speech climates. Just 47 have at least “slightly above average” speech climates. Last year, when 203 schools were ranked, these totals were 64 and 39, respectively.