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Free Speech on Campus Is Dying, Studies Show

Another sign that the future of democracy is at risk

Source: Pixabay

Two studies conducted in Canada and the United States clearly demonstrate a major cultural gap between learning institutions and the rest of society. Judging by the results of these studies, you would think that most campuses have turned into totalitarian dystopias.

In The Viewpoint Diversity Crisis at Canadian Universities: Political Homogeneity, Self-Censorship and Threats to Academic Freedom, the Macdonald-Laurier Institute gives us a serious warning: our future leaders will no longer view freedom of opinion as sacred.

Christopher Dummitt and Zachery Patterson, working on behalf of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, report that out of the 1,043 professors surveyed across Canada, 88% said they were left-leaning. At a time when the principle of diversity takes precedence over everything else, one wonders why universities don’t devote more time and effort to ensuring that both sides of the ideological spectrum are well represented in the faculties.

But what should worry everyone is the fear that grips those who express views contrary to the majority on campus. According to the Canadian study, 44% of right-leaning professors said they feared that their opinions could have negative consequences on their careers. This is a perfectly understandable frame of mind since 40% of these right-leaning professors said they faced a hostile work environment, while 57% said they practiced self-censorship in order to avoid confrontations.

We can clearly see why: “a third of all professors polled said they were prepared to limit academic freedom and ‘cancel’ colleagues who disagreed with their political views on social justice”, revealed The Toronto Sun.

The situation is hardly better in the United States if we are to believe the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), which published its 2022–2023 College Free Speech Rankings on September 7. This ranking is the result of a large survey about free speech conducted among approximately 45,000 college students in more than 203 U.S. universities.

What FIRE’s research shows is that censorship of unpopular views remains a common issue on American college campuses. It is, in short, a copy-paste of what is found in Canada. “That so many students are self-silencing and silencing each other is an indictment of campus culture”, FIRE Senior Research Fellow Sean Stevens said.

The figures speak for themselves:

- “63% of respondents worried about damaging their reputation because someone misunderstood something they said or did”;

- “conservative students are most likely to feel they cannot express their opinions freely, with 42% reporting that they ‘often’ feel uncomfortable speaking freely, compared to 13% of liberal students”;

- “40% of students are uncomfortable disagreeing with a professor — in public or in a written assignment.”

What this data tells us is that the next generations of leaders will see things from a different perspective, which does not bode well for the future of democracy.

Sources

FIRE, The Toronto Sun

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