Table of Contents

  • 1 in 10 college students report that they were disciplined or threatened with discipline for their expression.
  • That expression occurred most often in their dorm room (26%), in a meeting with an administrator (22%), during in-class discussion (21%), in a conversation with another student or students in a campus common space (14%), and in written assignments (13%).
  • 38% of students say speech they've heard on campus constitutes “an act of violence.”

From Sept. 5 to Oct. 20, 2023, FIRE and College Pulse surveyed 2,007 undergraduate students at America’s colleges and universities on their experiences with expression and discipline on campus.

Students were surveyed on whether they had ever experienced discipline or been threatened with discipline for their expression from their college administration. Generalized to the total undergraduate population as of 2021, this suggests that about 1.4 million undergraduate students have been punished or threatened with discipline for their speech.

1 in 10 college students report that they were disciplined or threatened with discipline for their expression.

Students who answered that they had experienced discipline or the threat of discipline were then asked where the expression that had gotten them in trouble occurred.

Bar graph showing where expression occurred.

Students were asked how often, if ever, something someone expressed on campus constitutes an act of violence.

38% of students say speech they've heard on campus constitutes "an act of violence"

Other survey questions include:

  • For students who were themselves (or know someone) disciplined or threatened with discipline for expression, how careful now, if at all, are you about what you express on campus because someone you know was disciplined for their expression?
  • Whether or not it was directed at you, have you ever felt uncomfortable in a class because of something someone expressed in reference to your gender, race,  socioeconomic status, political views, religious views, or sexual orientation?
  • When you are on campus, how often, if at all, would you say that you feel anxious;  depressed; threatened; or stressed, frustrated, or overwhelmed because of something someone has expressed?

We also asked various questions about student attitudes towards Title IX, the federal law barring sex discrimination in federally funded educational programs, which has broad implications in debates about due process, sexual harassment, and sexual assault on campus.

Results presented are weighted. Topline results and crosstabs for race, gender, and political ideology are available from the dropdown menu above. Raw data is available upon request to

Detailed Methodology

Where does the data come from?

The Student Experiences Survey was developed by FIRE and administered by College Pulse. No donors to the project took part in designing or conducting the survey. The survey was fielded from Sept. 5, 2023, to Oct. 20, 2023. These data come from a sample of 2,007 undergraduates who were then enrolled full-time in four-year degree programs. The margin of error for the sample is +/- 2%.

At the start of the survey, all students were given a definition of what was meant by expression: "In this survey the terms expression and expressed refer to otherwise lawful words or actions intended to communicate a message, and which would be reasonably likely to be understood by an observer."

How were the students recruited?

The initial sample was drawn from College Pulse’s American College Student Panel™, which includes more than 750,000 verified undergraduate students and recent alumni from schools within a range of more than 1,500 two- and four-year colleges and universities in all 50 states. 

Panel members were recruited by a number of methods to help ensure student diversity in the panel population: These methods include web advertising, permission-based email campaigns, and partnerships with university-affiliated organizations. To ensure the panel reflects the diverse backgrounds and experiences of the American college population, College Pulse recruited panelists from a wide variety of institutions. The panel includes students attending large public universities, small private colleges, online universities, historically black colleges such as Howard University, women’s colleges such as Smith College, and religiously affiliated colleges such as Brigham Young University.

How does College Pulse ensure response quality?

College Pulse uses a two-stage validation process to ensure that all its surveys include only students currently enrolled in two-year or four-year colleges or universities. Students are required to provide a “.edu” email address to join the panel and, for this survey, had to acknowledge that they are currently enrolled full-time in a four-year degree program. All invitations to complete surveys were sent using the student’s “.edu” email address or through a notification in the College Pulse app, available on iOS and Android platforms.

How does College Pulse ensure its surveys reflect the views of college students nationally?

College Pulse applies a post-stratification adjustment based on demographic distributions from multiple data sources, including the Current Population Survey (CPS), the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS), and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). The post-stratification weight rebalances the sample based on a number of important benchmark attributes, such as race, gender, class year, voter registration status, and financial aid status. The sample weighting is accomplished using an iterative proportional fitting (IFP) process that simultaneously balances the distributions of all variables. Weights are trimmed to prevent individual interviews from having too much influence on the final results.

The use of these weights in statistical analysis ensures that the demographic characteristics of the sample closely approximate the demographic characteristics of the target populations. Even with these adjustments, surveys may be subject to error or bias due to question wording, context, and order effects.

For further information, please see:

UPDATED (Dec. 12, 2023): This post has been updated to include the prompt provided to students at the start of the survey defining what is meant by the term "expression".