It’s a fact: Today’s college students are warming to totalitarianism
by Ben Bullard
A remarkable number of college students in the U.S. don’t know what the 1st Amendment is. They see no problem with campus speech codes, enforced political correctness and punishment for those who speak words that offend.
Those findings, including the discovery that 76 percent of students want their professors to use trigger warnings, come out of a newly released national survey sponsored by Yale University’s William F. Buckley Jr. program.
The 2015 Buckley Free Speech Survey found a striking contrast between the proportion of students who said freedom of speech is vital and the proportion who nevertheless had no problem with restricting it.
“At first glance,” notes the Freedom for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), “some of the findings seem to bode well for campus free speech.” That includes the 95 percent of students who agreed that free speech “is important to them,” and the 87 percent who believe it’s important to be exposed to views they disagree with.
But it starts to go downhill from there. From FIRE’s summary:
•Nearly one-third (32 percent) of students could not identify the First Amendment as the constitutional amendment that deals with free speech. 33 percent of those who correctly identified the First Amendment said that the First Amendment does not protect hate speech.
•More than half (51 percent) of students are in favor of their college or university having speech codes to regulate speech for students and faculty.
•72 percent of students said they support disciplinary action against “any student or faculty member on campus who uses language that is considered racist, sexist, homophobic or otherwise offensive.”
•49 percent of students said they have often felt intimidated to share beliefs that differ from their professors, and exactly half (50 percent) said they have often felt intimidated to share beliefs that differ from their classmates.
•55 percent of students said they are aware of “trigger warnings,” and 76 percent of these students favor their professors using them.
•By a 52 to 42 percent margin, students believe that their institution should forbid people from speaking on campus who have a history of engaging in hate speech.
At least the Yalies involved in collecting the data are among the academics who are still worried by findings like these.
“The survey results confirmed some of what we expected, but they also revealed troubling surprises,” said Buckley program director Lauren Noble. “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.”