A new poll conducted by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, Real Clear Education, and College Pulse queried approximately 20,000 students at 55 campuses across America to determine current attitudes about the First Amendment, censorship, tolerance, and self-expression. Responses ranged from routine and expected to eye-opening and disturbing.
After violent protests spurred by ANTIFA that caused $100,000 in damage erupted at UC Berkeley in 2017 over a speaking engagement by right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, undergrads now seem either inured to extremism of this kind or increasingly embrace it. That same year, Berkeley blocked Ann Coulter from speaking, and Ben Shapiro had to reschedule his appearance there based on violent protests in opposition to his engagement. With an irony lost on campus reactionaries everywhere, this all took place at UC Berkeley – which is known as the seat of the Free Speech Movement.
2017 was the same year an ANTIFA member was quoted as saying about such speaking engagements:
“There is the question of whether these people should feel safe organizing as Nazis in public, and I don’t think they should. Someone who is intent on politically organizing for the sake of creating a state-sponsored genocide—I don’t think is something that we should protect.”
Some four years later, this radical view appears to have insinuated itself into the bloodstream of a steadily metastasizing minority of America’s not-so-gimlet-eyed undergrads.
A response to a question in the poll about what students deemed acceptable actions to protest campus speakers was telling. Is ripping down posters, blocking speakers from speaking, shouting them down if they do, blocking audience members from entering, and even using violence to stop the event was acceptable? Almost 20% of the students polled felt that such actions – including the use of violence – were justified. Just 82% of students felt that violence was “never justified.” So, a subset of undergraduate students condones violence against dissenting viewpoints they find unacceptable.
The attitude is quickly becoming the new normal – in a country where freedom of speech has been a bedrock value since its founding.
The poll also revealed that self-censorship is burgeoning on campuses, which is felt by students of all political stripes, but most acutely by college conservatives who are typically outnumbered and cowed into silence. 72% of conservatives reported self-censorship in response to prevailing attitudes on campus, while 55% of liberals felt likewise. At 71%, DePauw University had the highest number of students reporting self-censorship, with an astonishing 94% of campus conservatives at DePauw admitting to quelling any instinct to speak their political mind.
The poll further demonstrated that better than the one-third of respondents from Ivy league schools felt it was “sometimes” or “always” acceptable to shout down a speaker with whom they disagreed versus 27% at non-Ivy League schools. There were apparently no questions about the increasing dearth of civility in our society or the vanishingly rare liberal values of open-mindedness and tolerance.
Of the 55 schools polled, the institutions with the highest overall scores for the positive perceptions of freedom of speech were Kansas State University, the University of Chicago, Arizona State University, Texas A&M University, and the University of California (Los Angeles.) And the schools for which the inverse was true included Syracuse University, Dartmouth University, Louisiana State University, the University of Texas at Austin, and DePauw University.
Whether fairly or unfairly, sociology has often been critiqued as “the science of the obvious.” Polling also often expends a lot of time, energy, and money to prove something of which most everyone is already aware, to wit: the study concluded that the prevailing viewpoint on most campuses is “liberal.”
File that under: Things We Already Knew.
Read more from Pennel Bird.
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