Survey says: College students feel campus climate silences free speech

Today’s college campus free-speech controversies have created campus environments that prevent students from saying what they really believe, according to a College Pulse study commissioned by the Knight Foundation.

College students largely agree that the political and social climate on college campuses prevents some students from saying what they really believe because they’re afraid of offending their classmates.

More than two-thirds (68 percent) of college students say “their campus climate precludes students from expressing their true opinions because their classmates might find them offensive.”

When asked what was more important, more than half of students (53 percent) said protecting free speech rights held a higher value than promoting “inclusion.”

There was also consensus among students (six in 10) that people are “too sensitive about others’ language” rather than “perceiving a greater overall need for people to exercise care in how they talk.”

Regarding “hate speech,” which the study says is defined as “attacks on people based on their race, religion, gender identity or sexual orientation,” nearly six in 10 students believe such speech should be protected, with 41 percent disagreeing. Divisions by gender on this question were prominent. Among women, 53 percent said “hate speech” should not be protected by the First Amendment, while among men, 74 percent said it should be protected by the First Amendment.

A sample of 4,407 students currently enrolled full-time in four-year degree programs were interviewed for the study.


Join Center of the American Experiment for a movie night at the Parkway Theater on July 9 featuring No Safe Spacesa movie about how dangerous college campuses have become for viewpoints and dissent. The movie will begin at 7pm followed by Q&A with the film’s director, Justin Folk.

Tickets are $5 and can be purchased here