Surprising percentage of college students find violent censorship 'acceptable' to some degree

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A new poll reveals that current college and university students increasingly find it acceptable to take direct action – including violence – to protest or censor a campus speaker with whom they disagree.

The poll – conducted by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, Real Clear Education and College Pulse – asked 20,000 students at 55 campuses across the nation questions regarding free speech issues and comfort. The question measured such elements as tolerance, openness and self-expression.

On a question about options for “action to protest a campus speaker,” the students answered how acceptable it is to remove flyers or ads for an upcoming event, shout down a speaker or block them from speaking, block other students from entering the event or even use violence to stop a speech.

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The percentage of “never acceptable” responses increased with the more violent an action became, but with 82% of students answering “never” for “using violence,” that means 17-18% of students responded that violence was in some form acceptable.

The results show that self-censorship is an issue for both conservative and liberal students, but conservative students feel more impacted, according to Campus Reform.

"Survey responses show that students who identify as Conservative are more likely to report self-censorship than Liberal students (72% vs. 55%). Moderate students fell between the two, with 62% reporting self- censorship," the report stated.

Outside of “using violence,” the poll found that students at Ivy League universities found it more acceptable to use most forms of direct protest, such as shouting down a speaker or preventing students from entering an event: 36% of Ivy League students say that shouting down a speaker is “always” or “sometimes” acceptable, compared to 27% of students not enrolled at Ivy League colleges.

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Top schools among the 55 polled with higher scores of overall perceived Freedom of Speech included the University of Chicago, Kansas State University, Texas A&M University, University of California – Los Angeles, and Arizona State University.

The other end of the spectrum included Syracuse University, Dartmouth University, Louisiana State University, the University of Texas at Austin and DePauw University.

The study concluded that the predominant viewpoint on most campuses is “liberal,” according to responses from 44 of the 55 campuses (80%).

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The percentage of students who reported self-censoring at DePauw (71%) was the highest among the 55 colleges surveyed, and a stunning 94% of Conservative students at DePauw reported doing so.

The study noted that colleges at both ends of the rankings have suffered free-speech controversies – likely the reason they were selected for the study.

One example from the University of Chicago – with the highest Free Speech score – noted that a student responded to a prompt “I vote because…” with “the coronavirus won’t destroy America, but socialism will.”

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“For this, she was widely denounced by her peers, threatened with violence, and told that she did not belong at the University of Chicago because of her beliefs,” the study said.

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