'Trouble on Campus': Free Speech Is Hitting 'Abysmal' Levels - Here Are the Worst Offenders
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If you have an opinion on the COVID-19 vaccine, racial inequality, or abortion, then Colombia University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Georgetown University are listed among the worst places to go, a new survey finds.
The third annual College Free Speech Rankings is the largest report on student free expression, surveying 45,000 students across 203 of America's largest and most prestigious campuses.
Columbia University bottomed out as the worst institution for free speech.
"They have a 9.91, rated fairly low," Sean Stevens, Senior Research Fellow for FIRE, told CBN News. "That would be an abysmal rating based on our speech climate classifications."
"Surprisingly, Columbia is pretty tolerant of liberal speakers but also relative to most of the other schools, they're fairly tolerant of conservative speakers… that's not why they do poorly," Stevens explained. "They get punished a lot for a number of scholar sanctions over the past four years."
Between 2019-2020, seven academics faced investigation or disciplinary action for tweets or comments deemed unacceptable, the New York Post reports.
The survey found that only 27% of students say shouting down a speaker to prevent them from speaking on campus is never acceptable. A mere 36% of students say they have rarely or never self-censored on campus. It also found that a majority of students agree with barring speakers with non-liberal viewpoints from campus.
"I feel that even as a liberal student, sometimes there is no room for nuance in the discussion. I think it is productive to understand why people believe what they believe, and to argue that the other side is racist and dumb feels like an unintellectual exercise and this often occurs in my classes," one student told the group.
The University of Pennsylvania sits at 202 out of 203 universities, according to the survey.
"Like Columbia, [the University of Pennsylvania] does badly on disruptive conduct, openness, comfort expressing ideas, a component where we ask students how comfortable they are expressing their views," Stevens explained. "That could be a written assignment, in the classroom, in the quad, or the dining hall, social media."
And 28% of students on that campus say they are not worried about damaging their reputation because someone misunderstands something they have said or done.
"At one of the gatherings, I witnessed a student berated by others for trying to recruit conservatives. I felt if I had spoken up for them, I would be possibly yelled at, harassed, or worse assaulted," a U Penn student told FIRE.
"There was an anti-gun protest. I believe in responsible gun ownership, so I did not attend," another student explained. "Other students labeled me as someone who advocates for school shootings because I was not participating. A group of protesters harassed me verbally while I was minding my own business on a bench."
Stevens told CBN News that Skidmore College and Georgetown University rounded out the bottom five and Yale and Northwestern were close-by.
"The situation for freedom of speech and academic freedom has been in trouble on campus since before FIRE was founded in 1999," FIRE CEO Greg Lukianoff said in a statement. "That situation has gotten far worse in the last few years. Our new and improved rankings are intended to reward universities that protect and defend the freedom of speech while empowering students and parents who care about free speech not to attend or support universities that don't."
The COVID-19 vaccine, racial inequality, and abortion remain hot-button issues on campus, the survey finds. In fact, 60% of students do not support allowing someone to say abortion should be completely illegal, and 74% do not support allowing someone to say Black Lives Matter is a hate group.
"We hope that schools will recognize these trends themselves — or feel some pressure from current students, faculty, and alumni — and make changes if they're lower in the rankings," Stevens told the NY Post. "We hope this report will be used to push schools to change their policies to foster more open expression on campuses."
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