Free speech has always been a uniquely American thing, but in the modern era, the so-called ‘free speech movement’ began anew on college and university campuses. But things have changed.
Originally published by WND News Center. Used with permission.
A new survey reveals that most of the students who participated in a free speech assessment at the University of Wisconsin confirmed they fear expressing their views on some topics because other students will disagree, or it could hurt their grades.
WMTV reported a full one-third said they’ve felt pressure from an instructor to agree with a certain viewpoint.
“I want the University of Wisconsin system to be looked upon as a beacon across the country where people want to go if free speech rights are very important to them,” Republican state Rep. David Murphy, chairman of the Assembly universities committee, said in the report.
The results were discussed at UW-Oshkosh.
Campus speech has become a battleground in recent years, as leftist students disrupt conservative speakers, student clubs and more. Their stated perspective is that those who disagree with the leftist ideology simply do not have free speech and should not be allowed.
As a result, Republicans have pressured universities to protect free speech, and “crack down on students who disrupt conservative speakers,” the report said.
The survey was done by UW-Stout’s Menard Center for Public Policy and Service, and involved undergraduates at all 13 campuses.
The survey was funded partly from a donation from the family that founded Menards, a chain of home improvement centers, and it was controversial even before it went out.
The report explained, “UW-Whitewater Interim Chancellor Jim Henderson was so incensed with plans for the survey that he resigned over it in April. He said then that he was upset over then-Interim System President Michael Falbo’s decision to send out the survey after initially deciding that institutions wouldn’t do it. He accused Falbo of changing his mind because he feared political consequences from Republican lawmakers concerned about campus leaders stamping out conservative viewpoints.”
Almost 57% of the respondents – which included thousands of students – said there have been times they’ve wanted to express their opinion on a controversial topic – but remained silent.
Sixty percent said they feared other students would disagree and 31% said they worried someone would file a complaint targeting them.
“About 40% said they were afraid their grades would suffer if they spoke up. Three-fourths of those students identified themselves as ‘very conservative,’” the report said.
Thirty-seven percent said they’ve felt pressure from an instructor to agree with a “specific” viewpoint.