College Students More Willing to Embrace Authoritarian Tactics, New Survey Shows

AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

As if we didn’t already have enough reasons to be concerned about the state of liberty in the future, a new survey reveals even more troubling attitudes among young Americans toward free speech. Unfortunately, it appears the younger generations are more amenable to embracing authoritarian ideas and tactics than the previous ones.

A report based on a survey of 2,250 college students from various institutions in the US reveals that nearly three-quarters of all students, regardless of political affiliation, believe offensive comments made by professors should be reported to the university. Similarly, a significant number of students would also report their peers for hurtful or insulting remarks. The survey findings indicate ongoing challenges on college campuses to foster critical thinking and healthy debates on contentious issues among students and faculty.

The report indicates that self-identified liberal students are more likely to report professors and peers for offensive comments, compared to self-identified conservative students. However, it also highlights that the examples of offensive comments provided in the survey were considered by some experts to be reasonable expressions of opinion, supported by data, peer-reviewed literature, or debates in courts.

The report, compiled by the Sheila and Robert Challey Institute for Global Innovation and Growth, showed that some of the statements students believed should be reported included “It is clear that Affirmative Action is doing more harm than good, and should be eliminated,” “Owning a gun is the right of every U.S. citizen,” “It is clear that we have a problem with racist police in the U.S. shooting unarmed black men.”

What is also noteworthy is that 40 percent of all students believed the statement, “If you look at the data, there is no evidence of anti-black bias in police shootings,” should be reported. About 34 percent said the statement “Requiring vaccination for COVID is an assault on individual freedom” should also be reported.

The fact that a majority of these students would readily resort to reporting offensive remarks to higher authorities highlights a lack of understanding regarding the principles of free speech and the First Amendment. This worrisome shift has already been witnessed in other areas, where citizens willingly reported on their neighbors during the COVID-19 pandemic, indicating a dangerous trajectory towards a more authoritarian society.

The principles of free speech are the bedrock of a free society, as they not only allow for the expression of diverse ideas but also foster open debates and the exchange of knowledge. It is through these interactions that individuals can grow, learn from each other’s perspectives, and forge a path toward progress.

However, when the default response to offensive remarks is to report them to authorities, it hampers the free exchange of ideas and creates an environment of self-censorship where individuals fear expressing dissenting opinions. Unfortunately, the authoritarian left seems to be succeeding in its mission to indoctrinate students into adopting their tactics.

This growing willingness to embrace authoritarian tactics extends beyond college campuses and has been observed in other areas of society. During the COVID-19 pandemic, for instance, there were numerous instances of citizens eagerly reporting on their neighbors for allegedly violating lockdown orders and mask mandates. This kind of behavior not only erodes the sense of community and trust among individuals but also sets a dangerous precedent for an increasingly regulated and authoritarian society.

It is concerning that Millennials and Gen Z, in particular, seem to be more open to the idea of government intervention in regulating speech and behavior. This acceptance of authority has far-reaching implications for the future of American society, as it paves the way for a society where personal freedoms and individual rights may be sacrificed in the name of safety and compliance.

In order to safeguard the values of a free society, it is essential to educate younger generations about the importance of free speech and the protection it affords to all individuals, regardless of their opinions. Instead of resorting to authoritarian tactics to silence offensive speech, fostering an environment of respectful dialogue and constructive debate is key to nurturing critical thinking and encouraging individuals to challenge their own beliefs.

Even further, students should be educated on the dangers of allowing governing authorities to have too much power. It seems many younger folks fail to understand how detrimental an authoritarian government can be – especially since they appear to believe the state will never be used against them. If this trend is not reversed, the newer generation might grant the federal government even more power that can be wielded against us.


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