A growing recognition among a majority of Americans is that liberals enjoy greater freedom of speech on college campuses compared to conservatives, a fact long understood by conservative circles. As per a survey conducted by the Associated Press—NORC Center for Public Affairs Research in collaboration with the University of Chicago, 47% of respondents believe that liberals possess “a substantial amount” of freedom to articulate their viewpoints within college environments, whereas merely 20% share the same perspective regarding conservatives’ freedom of expression in such settings.
Among the Republicans who participated in the survey, a mere 9% expressed the belief that conservatives can openly express their opinions on college campuses without apprehension of reprisals. In contrast, nearly 60% of Republicans opined that Democrats and liberals can freely communicate their viewpoints without facing retaliatory consequences.
Over the past ten years, the matter of free speech on campuses has become a subject of intense debate. Instances of liberal college students vociferously opposing and staging widespread protests against invited conservative speakers have, in essence, eroded the principle of open discourse within colleges.
Earlier this year, a conservative judge encountered disruptions from students at Stanford University, and a conservative professor from Princeton University found himself silenced by an irate group of students while, rather ironically, engaging in a discussion about free speech at a smaller college in Maryland.
This constitutes a concerning pattern observed across American campuses. As reported by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), there have been six instances of significant disruptions during planned campus speeches thus far this year, compared to 11 such disruptions recorded in the previous year.
Certain academics have highlighted a shift in colleges, where the traditional notion of open exchange and debate of diverse ideas—something most Americans associate with higher education—has waned in significance.
Ilya Shapiro, a conservative scholar and the director of constitutional studies at the Manhattan Institute, who experienced being shouted down at the University of California’s law school, has pointed out a more significant issue than guest speakers facing disruptions. He emphasizes that both students and faculty are increasingly sensing limitations on their ability to engage in discussions about certain topics.