Professors Favor Free Speech


93 percent of faculty agree with the statement that, “[U]niversity life requires that people with diverse viewpoints and perspectives encounter each other in an environment where they feel free to speak up and challenge each other.” There is almost universal support for the exchange of ideas and open discourse.

That’s from a new study by Samuel J. Abrams, a political scientist at Sarah Lawrence College and visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, published in The American Interest and discussed in an article at Inside Higher EdThe study adds to the existing reasons to doubt the narrative, often offered up by mainstream media, that there is a free speech crisis on university campuses.

Here are some other findings from Professor Abrams’ study:

  • Teaching: 80 percent of professors believe that, “Faculty members should be free to present in class any idea that they consider relevant.” Liberal faculty are more supportive of this statement than conservative faculty, with 88 percent of liberal faculty agreeing compared to 67 percent of conservative faculty… Similarly, in the historically liberal humanities and social sciences departments, support for real academic freedom is higher than in the more technical and conservative departments. Over 90 percent of faculty in English, history, political science, arts, and humanities departments support that statement, compared to 70 percent in business and education. 
  • Exposure to Diverse Speech: 69 percent support an open environment where students are exposed to all types of speech, while only 31 percent favored positive environments where speech can be limited to help ensure that all students feel safe and respected.
  • Safe Spaces: 61 percent of professors agree either completely or with some reservation that safe spaces “help students feel comfortable sharing their perspectives and exploring sensitive subjects.” Unsurprisingly, 78 percent of liberal faculty agree while only 39 percent of conservative faculty do. 
  • Disruptive Protests: 67 percent of faculty agree to varying degrees that such students [who disrupt the functioning of a college to protest against certain speakers or ideas] should be expelled or suspended. 84 percent of conservative faculty support these measures compared to 59 percent of liberals, a less dramatic split than the divide over safe spaces. Overall, faculty members favor preserving both order and freedom on campus, though with slightly different ideas of how to go about it.

More here and here.

UPDATE 1: Someone is trolling the site by repeatedly reporting comments that are critical of me or my views, presumably in an attempt to “show” how anti-free speech I am. (Note to troll: I’m sorry my failure to live up to your expectations has made extra work for you.)  When this happens, the comment is no longer visible until I manually re-approve it. I’ll try to keep an eye on this, but if you notice that your previously visible comment has not been visible for a while, send me an email to let me know. Also, keep in mind I do not tend to Daily Nous 24/7, so the restoration of your comment may take some time.

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