Ivy League universities are hostile to free speech, survey finds

Ivy League universities are hostile to free speech, survey finds
Image: Columbia University

Ivy League universities are expensive and prestigious, but that doesn’t mean they are hospitable to academic debate or freedom of expression. A recent survey of the nation’s colleges found that Ivy League universities were disproportionately toward the bottom when it came to respecting freedom of expression, while four of the top five were state universities in the Midwest or South.

Columbia University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Yale University were at the bottom of the free speech rankings recently released by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, reports the College Fix:

Columbia University came in last on the list of 203 colleges and universities, followed by the University of Pennsylvania. Yale University’s spot is No. 198. They’re joined by several institutions that are not Ivies — but prestigious nonetheless — Georgetown University at No. 200 and Skidmore College at No. 199.

Billed by FIRE as “the largest survey on student free expression ever conducted,” it surveyed 44,847 students through College Pulse’s online platform. To develop the rankings, the students were asked about topics such as their comfort expressing ideas on campus, the tolerance for liberal and conservative speakers, how acceptable or unacceptable it is to protest a campus speaker, administrative support for free speech, and the level of open debate and dialogue on campus. “It takes into account the varied dimensions of free expression on campus — from the ability to discuss challenging topics like abortion, race, and gender dynamics, to tolerance for controversial campus speakers and whether students hold back from openly sharing their views,” stated FIRE spokesperson Katie Kortepeter…Data for the list came from a mass survey issued to fulltime undergraduate students enrolled in four-year programs. Each university received a free speech score out of 100 points.

The highest scoring institution, the University of Chicago, earned 77.92 points, correlating to a speech climate status of “good.” Along with the University of Chicago, schools such as Kansas State, Purdue, Mississippi State, and Oklahoma State composed the top five….Conversely, Columbia University, the lowest-ranked college on the list with 9.91 points, merited a climate status of “abysmal.”…No colleges included on the list earned scores in the 80s or 90s, scores that correlate with the titles “very good” and “exceptional.”

FIRE described some findings it considered worrying trends:

• More than three in five students (63%) expressed worry about damaging their reputation because of someone misunderstanding what they have said or done, and just over one in five (21%) reported that they feel a lot of pressure to avoid discussing controversial topics in their classes. Twenty-two percent reported that they often self-censor.

• Roughly three in five students reported they would feel discomfort publicly disagreeing with a professor about a controversial topic or expressing an unpopular opinion to their peers on a social media account tied to their name.

“These findings about intolerant and disruptive conduct, self-censorship, and a pervasive national climate of worry and discomfort on American college campuses should concern anyone who supports a vision of higher education as a free marketplace of ideas, one that should produce graduates who are ready to join the vigorous debates within American society and beyond,” it stated in the the report’s conclusion.

“Too many students are not ready, and too many of their colleges are not helping them but, instead, perpetuating an unclear or even a hostile climate for free expression.” The survey was conducted this year from January to May.

LU Staff

LU Staff

Promoting and defending liberty, as defined by the nation’s founders, requires both facts and philosophical thought, transcending all elements of our culture, from partisan politics to social issues, the workings of government, and entertainment and off-duty interests. Liberty Unyielding is committed to bringing together voices that will fuel the flame of liberty, with a dialogue that is lively and informative.


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