College Students: Yes, You can Limit our Speech

October 29, 2015

By Bob Unruh at

A new poll indicates half of the college students in America approve of limits on their speech and the speech of their professors.

And even more say their schools should actively monitor the speech of speakers who come to campus and believe some should be banned.

The stunning results, which give the impression that America is more restrictive than its Constitution allows, come from a new study from Yale University’s William F. Buckley Jr. program.

The results are disturbing, says the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which was created to “defend and sustain” individual rights on higher education campus.

The organization focuses on due process, religious liberty, sanctity of conscience, legal equality and free speech.

“At first glance, some of the findings seem to bode well for campus free speech. For example, 95 percent of the 800 college students surveyed said that campus free speech is important to them, and almost nine in ten (87 percent) agreed that there is educational value in listening to and understanding views and opinions that they may disagree with and are different from their own,” FIRE reported.

“However, upon closer examination, the survey reveals some alarming insights into the anti-free speech mentality on college campuses today.”

For example, the poll showed that 32 percent of students could not identify the First Amendment as the section of the Constitution dealing with free speech. And one-third of those who could identify the First Amendment claimed it does not protect “hate speech.”

Also, 51 percent of students, FIRE noted, are “in favor of their college or university having speech codes to regulate speech for students and faculty.”

Seven of 10 advocated “disciplinary action” against students and faculty members who might use language “that is considered racist, sexist, homophobic.”

They even want punishment for those whose language is “otherwise offensive.”

Fifty-two percent said their institutions should “forbid people from speaking on campus who have a history of engaging in hate speech.”

Almost half said they were “often” intimidated to share beliefs that are different from those of their professors, and exactly half felt the same if their beliefs differ from their classmates.

FIRE called the results “disconcerting.”

The results were posted at McLaughlineOnline,

The authors explained that the sample included 800 undergraduate students interviewed in September chosen from a nationwide platform of students.

They self-identified as 42 percent Democratic, 26 percent Republican and 29 percent independent – or 44 percent liberal, 32 percent moderate and 20 percent conservative.

“Because the sample is based on those who initially self-selected for participation rather than a probability sample, no estimates of sampling error can be calculated. … However, a confidence interval of 95 percent was calculated in order to produce an error estimate of [plus or minute] 3.4 percent for the 800 respondents,” the report said.

The survey noted that while “most approve of the job that their school is already doing when it comes to promoting free speech, about half favor speech codes.”

“Students who are aware of speech codes at their school are much more likely to favor them.”

But only half of the respondents said the First Amendment “does not make an exemption for hate speech and that all speech is protected under the First Amendment.”

“Students who were unable to connect the First Amendment to free speech are less likely to say that hate speech is protected.”

Specifically asked about freedom of speech, only 46 percent said they support it in all cases.

Also, exactly half “favor their school banning the publication of political cartoons that would criticize any particular religion or ethnicity.”

“Self-described liberals as well as minority students are more likely to favor this policy, as well as those who believe hate speech is NOT protected under the First Amendment,” the pollsters reported.

Buckley program Executive Director Lauren Noble said the program was founded to increase intellectual diversity on the Yale University campus and beyond.

She said the survey “shows that we have a great deal of work to do.”

“The survey results confirmed some of what we expected, but they also revealed troubling surprises,” she said. “It is the opinion of the Buckley Program that university campuses are best served by free and open speech, but, lamentably, that opinion is anything but unanimous, the survey shows. ”

The poll also showed 53 percent of students “say their professors have often used class time to express their own views about matters outside of coursework, including 14 percent who say ‘frequently’ and 38 percent who say ‘sometimes.’”

Six of 10 called political correctness either a big problem or somewhat of a problem, and “by a margin of nearly two to one margin, students said their school is generally more tolerant of liberal ideas and beliefs than conservative ideas and beliefs.

Schools: Yale University