The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), in partnership with RealClearEducation, commissioned College Pulse to conduct a survey of students at 55 colleges about students’ experiences with free speech on their campuses. Fielded from April 1 to May 28, 2020, via the College Pulse mobile app and web portal, the survey included nearly 20,000 student respondents who were currently enrolled in four-year degree programs. This was the largest survey of college students about free speech on their campuses ever conducted.
Of the institutions included in the ranking, the University of Chicago is considered the best campus for free speech and DePauw University in Indiana the worst.
Seven of the top 10 colleges are public state universities, and undergraduate enrollment is above 15,000 at each of those seven.
60% of students can recall at least one time during their college experience when they did not share their perspective for fear of how others would respond.
While 57% of students say their college would defend a speaker’s right to express his or her views in the case of a controversy over “offensive” expression, a disturbingly large minority, 42%, believe their college would punish the speaker for making the statement. Over 45% of college students identified race as a challenging topic to discuss on campus, the highest of any controversial topic asked about.
Students’ assessment of free speech on campus is, at least in part, driven by their political ideology, and whether or not they align with the majority viewpoint at their college.