By Jordan Adams for RealClearEducation
Within the 2021 College Free Speech Rankings
One of the great values of an American collegiate experience is that students have the opportunity to become deeply involved in different opinions. To this day, I am grateful for the abundance of people, traditions, views, and cultures with which I was able to engage two decades ago when, as a fairly conservative Jewish teenager, I left the east coast to go to the west and join the to go to university. Stanford University.
I would be lying if I were to say that there were no evenings when I was hurt, misunderstood, shocked and angry when my ideas were challenged and came into conflict with others. But there were many more evenings in which I could connect, learn, and grow in a way I could not imagine in high school. I certainly remember the frustrations and pain of the challenge, but I remember the ecstasy of opening my mind to new ideas and changing my opinions when I hear someone or something new.
My old dormitory even hosted a series of speakers, where large visits to the left and right occur frequently, and no one shouts; we even hosted the regularly protested Dinesh D’Souza without incident.
Although I, along with a large number of other students, did not share the ideas of many of the speakers we heard, it was always worth hearing and then debating until late at night. Unfortunately, my undergraduate experience of the possibility of hearing, responding to it and then threatening a myriad of views is threatened.
Today, the cancellation culture runs high on our university campuses, and diversity of views is no longer considered a sacred, core value in higher education.
Thanks to the largest dataset ever compiled on students’ views on free speech, we now know that students attending the country’s elite schools – those who allegedly thrive in the world of research, innovation and discovery – actually more likely to cancel speech than their peers attending educational institutions at the lower position.
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New data from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), RealClearEducation and the research firm College Pulse provide empirical insight into this issue. The adjust released survey captures the voices of more than 37,000 students at 159 colleges and finds speech on campuses in a dire state, and paints a picture of university life in which speakers are shouted off, others are restricted to hearing different views and even the use of violence to prevent speech is considered acceptable by many students.
Nationally, two-thirds of students believe there are cases where a speaker can be called. This number is even higher at the elite schools in the country.
If we look at the top 20 colleges and universities according to US News, which includes schools such as Yale and Middlebury, says nearly three-quarters (72%) of students at such schools that there are cases in which a speaker tries to disrupt are justifiable. At schools under 100, such as Texas Tech and the University of Central Florida, the number drops to 62%.
When asked about the acceptability of the fact that it is not possible to attend peers from a campus presentation, 40% of students at the national level say that there are cases that prevent their classmates from hearing someone else’s views. By comparison, 50% of students at the top 20 schools believe that such behavior is justified.
The numbers drop from there: 41% of those between schools between 41-75, such as Penn State and the University of Syracuse, believe that peers are not allowed to hear a speaker. Just over a third (35%) of students enrolled in schools that are under 100 – schools that include the state of New Mexico and the state of Georgia – believe that there are cases in which they block their peers.
Finally, nearly a quarter (23%) of students nationwide believe that violent action can be justified to prevent speech. This alarmingly high figure is even higher among the elite colleges of the country. Thirty percent of students at the top 20 colleges and universities believe there are cases where violence is acceptable.
The number is dropping especially for schools under 100, schools that include the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Central Florida – where only 20% accept violence as a way to stop speech.
The data is clear: the more elite the school has, the more likely its students are willing to silence speech. For elite, academically minded schools, it is not only a complete rejection of their mission and raison d’être, but it is also very sad to be seen as a professor.
The impulse to cancel in the name of awake, identity-laden, progressive values, prevents students from growing and learning how to connect with others in a world of real and valid differences.
By coding and allowing students woke up administrators to set the agenda, elite schools deprive students of a true educational experience – one that should be joyful and sometimes uncomfortable; one full of abundant speech, debate and discourse.
Samuel J. Abrams is a professor of politics at Sarah Lawrence College and a senior resident at the American Enterprise Institute.
Syndicated with permission from RealClearWire.
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