A new poll released last Tuesday (Mar. 12) finds that 61 percent of college students in the U.S. say the climate on college campuses restrict forms of free speech.
The new poll was released from a 2017 Gallup/Knight Foundation survey of over 3,000 randomly sampled students which is an update from their 2016 survey, which stated that 54 percent of the students felt there were restrictions to free speech on campus. This is an increase from a year ago.
Many of the students surveyed in the recent poll expressed that they feel students still prefer a campus environment that allows free speech. Also, students polled say that conservative students are less able to express their views.
The poll also found that fewer students (70 percent) now than in 2016 (78 percent), are in favor of having an open campus allowing freedom of expression. The study also found that Democrats, blacks and women are among the groups that are less supportive of an open environment than they were in 2016; Republicans still overwhelmingly favor an open environment (86 percent).
Many colleges are struggling to allow speakers on campus and from the 2017 poll, 90 percent of the students say it is never acceptable to use violence to dissuade someone from speaking on a college campus, but 10 percent say that it is sometimes acceptable. In the same poll, a majority (62 percent) also say shouting down speakers is not acceptable, while 37 percent polled think it is sometimes acceptable.
An interesting finding from the student said that those polled say that social media stifles free expression. Students polled say that social media is where most political discussion takes place (57 percent) rather than in public areas of campus (43 percent). Students agree (60 percent) that social media can stifle free speech because it is easy to block those with different viewpoints or because of people afraid of being attacked (59 percent).
Georgia is one of 24 states that have introduced free speech bills. State Senator William Ligon (R-Brunswick) has introduced Senate Bill 339, the Campus Free Speech Act, passed the Senate last week and has now made its way out of a committee in the House.
The bill directs the University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents to establish policies protecting freedom of speech on Georgia’s college and university campuses. The current version of SB 339 no longer has the provision that would punish those who impede free speech on campuses with fines and expulsions who repeatedly stop those from speaking on campuses.