A University of Wisconsin study finds that a large percentage of conservative students feel uncomfortable expressing their opinions on campus.
- While the majority of students felt comfortable expressing their viewpoints, the 10,000-student study reveals that 30% feel uncomfortable sharing their opinions, and these students overlap with conservative opinions.
- 64% of conservative students stated they felt pressured by instructors to agree with specific political opinions discussed in class, as opposed to 15% of liberal students.
- 31% of all students agreed that offensive guest speakers should be disinvited from campus.
- When students were asked to what degree university administrators should ban harmful political points of view, 7.3% of conservative students agreed, and 40.2% of progressive students agreed.
Why It’s Important
Over the last decade, there has been mounting evidence on many college campuses in America, that the conservative point of view is now welcome—with conservative students facing pressure to conform to popular consensus or keep their political opinions to themselves.
College journalism websites like The College Fix and Campus Reform have documented thousands of stories of students being pressured for their opinions, professors being pressured by students or fired, and political violence erupting when controversial speakers spoke on campuses.
A joint study by the UW-Stout Menard Center for the Study of Institutions and Innovation and the Wisconsin Institute for Public Policy and Service surveyed 10,000 University of Wisconsin System students on subjects surrounding freedom of speech.
UW-Madison Professor Ryan Owens tells Wisconsin Public Radio that February’s study reveals the different experiences conservative and progressive students have while attending one of the 13 universities tied to the system.
“We are seeing such tremendously stark differences between people on the right and the left in this survey that it cannot escape attention. I think we have a problem where some people believe that it’s all right to use the university to stop speech with which they disagree. And I think universities have to make a concerted effort to say, ‘No, that is not what we’re going to do here,'” he says.
“We want to make sure we get ourselves better. It is important that our universities continue to be marketplaces of ideas where divergent opinions can be shared and debated, and discussed. And I think that, at the end of the day, is a bipartisan issue,” says University President Jay Rothman.
“I think it’s normal that students don’t want to have their student fees help to support speech that they are opposed to. I think maybe universities could do a better job of giving them other avenues for expressing their disagreement,” UW-Madison Assistant Professor Franciska Coleman tells Wisconsin Public Radio.