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College students’ attitudes toward presentation of counter-viewpoints

By and March 7, 2018

In a recent essay in the University of Pennsylvania Law School’s Journal of Constitutional Law Online entitled “Views Among College Students Regarding Freedom of Expression: An Analysis in Light of Key Supreme Court Decisions,” UCLA professor and Brookings Institution nonresident senior fellow John Villasenor delves into college students’ attitudes toward First Amendment issues. His survey results suggest that many students hold views on free speech issues that are inconsistent with First Amendment principles.

Our previous article on Villasenor’s project looked at the partisan and ideological breakdown of the student respondents in the data he initially published on students’ views toward hate speech and disinvitations. His complete study encompasses questions that delve into a much broader view of First Amendment issues.

His full article looks at, among other things, whether students think the First Amendment requires the presentation of counter-viewpoints. 62 percent of students agreed that if an “on-campus organization is hosting [a speaking] event, [the organization] is legally required to ensure that the event includes … a speaker who presents an opposing view.” This is not  consistent with First Amendment law, which does not require campus organizations to present opposing viewpoints.

Although campus organizations are not legally required to present opposing viewpoints, we at FIRE agree that the presentation of multiple perspectives on an issue may often allow for a more meaningful discussion of ideas — which is why we provide resources for students who want to engage speech with more speech. You can read more about Villasenor’s project in his full essay.