Is Free Speech Under Attack on Iowa College Campuses? Students Say No
In recent years free speech has continually been attacked on both sides of the political aisle. Whether it's the desire of the right to ban books in school libraries, or the attempts on the left to 'cancel' comedians for jokes (plus WAY more). In a country that's values align with freedom in general -- specifically the freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and freedom of thought -- anyone and everyone should be alarmed.
While free speech should certainly be a focal point of concern for Americans at all times, a survey was recently conducted asking college students at Iowa, Iowa State, and UNI how they feel in regards to a variety of topics around the hot-button issue on their different campuses.
First, they were asked about whether or not they felt comfortable expressing their opinions on campus -- 74% said they were. Regents Chief Academic Officer, Rachel Boon said this in regards to their response, according to Radio Iowa:
Most students do agree that they’re comfortable expressing their opinions more in campus settings than in our off-campus settings. This was an interesting finding — in fact — in classrooms is where the greatest number of them agreed they feel comfortable.
The survey discovered that "90% of students felt they were open to listening to different views and thought only 59% of other students were that open." In reference to those statistics, Boon had this to say:
We like to see ourselves in our best possible light — I’m sure present company included in that. I would note that the students judged their peers a lot more harshly than the employees were judging how students’ openness was to hearing different views.
Just 10% of the roughly 70,000 students between these universities were surveyed.
It's worth noting that in a national survey conducted in 2020 by FIRE, the following were key takeaways:
- Just over a quarter of the surveyed students identified as conservative to some degree compared to 50% who are liberal.
- Nearly one-third don’t think Trump should be allowed to speak on campus, 22% for Biden.
- More than 60% of extreme liberals said it’s 'always' or 'sometimes' acceptable to shout down a speaker; compared to 15% for extreme conservatives.
- Students identifying as Republican or Independent were more tolerant of speakers than Democratic students.
- 60% of students reported feeling that they could not express an opinion because of how students, a professor, or their administration would respond. This number is highest among 'strong Republicans' (73%) and lowest among 'strong Democrats' (52%).
- Just 15% of students reported feeling very comfortable publicly disagreeing with a professor about a controversial topic.
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