Study of College Students' Attitudes Toward Free Speech Is Frightening

While it shouldn’t surprise anyone who has paid attention to the left wing hysteria on the campus of U.C. Berkeley lately, the findings in a recent poll of college students about their attitudes toward freedom of speech is still unsettling. The Washington Post—no bastion of conservative thought—published an op-ed by Catherine Rampell that calls it “chilling.”


Here’s the problem with suggesting that upsetting speech warrants “safe spaces,” or otherwise conflating mere words with physical assault: If speech is violence, then violence becomes a justifiable response to speech.

Just ask college students. A fifth of undergrads now say it’s acceptable to use physical force to silence a speaker who makes “offensive and hurtful statements.”

While some on the right dismiss students with the played out “snowflake” put-down, we might just be seeing the “safe space” movement laying the groundwork for justifying violent responses to speech they deem unacceptable.

That’s one finding from a disturbing new survey of students conducted by John Villasenor, a Brookings Institution senior fellow and University of California at Los Angeles professor.

In August, motivated by concerns about the “narrowing window of permissible topics” for discussion on campuses, Villasenor conducted a nationwide survey of 1,500 undergraduate students at four-year colleges.

Given some of the inane course offerings and academic programs that have been cropping up in recent decades, the notion that the number of “permissible topics” is growing smaller is indeed chilling.


The saving grace here is that while college students tend to be idiots, many of them realize what idiots they were as they grow older. (Those who don’t end up being professors of gender studies or some other pseudo-academic nincompoopery.) The results of the poll if given to the same people 5 or 10 years from now would probably be much different.

Still having so many misguided people cooped up in an insular college campus might well yield results more disastrous than we’ve seen so far.


Join the conversation as a VIP Member

Trending on RedState Videos