Constitutional law professor and commentator Jonathan Turley is lamenting the fact that students in his law-school classes actually are now asking whether they have freedom of speech.
Online, he wrote, “With the start of classes at George Washington Law School, I have already had visits to my office of conservative and libertarian students asking if I thought they could speak freely in other classes without being penalized by professors.”
He continued, “Despite teaching for decades, it is a question that I never heard from students until the last few years. It is now routine. It is the widespread fear of conservative students who have faced faculties with overwhelmingly liberal viewpoints and growing intolerance on virtually every campus as undergraduate students.”
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He cited a study from North Carolina that also now confirms conservative students routinely “self-censor” because they do not feel able to share their views in classes.
“Not surprisingly given the heavy liberal makeup of faculties, liberal students feel little such fear over retaliation,” he wrote.
That study found that “self-identified conservatives express free-expression-related concerns at a far higher rate than … liberals.”
“We find racial issues to be the topic that elicits the most student discomfort. However, we also find that students hold opinions back on a wide range of political topics for a wide range of reasons. Inspecting students’ own accounts of why they held opinions back reveal a mélange of reasons including fear of becoming ostracized from peers, ‘othering’ comments from faculty, and simple imposter syndrome,” the study said.
It said those students who are more likely to be politically involved “have a higher tendency toward closed-mindedness, toward disliking the outgroup, and toward believing negative stereotypes about the outgroup…”
It also found, alarmingly, that there is a “significant number” of students who see “disruptive actions against people who have opposing viewpoints” as appropriate.
Turley noted that polls show 65% agree that people on campus today “are prevented from speaking freely,” and conservatives are “300 times more likely to self-censor themselves due to the intolerance of opposing views on our campuses.”
Another red flag was that only 7% of liberal students were concerned their teacher’s ideology would affect their grades, while 42% of conservatives expressed that worry.
Turley said, “Universities have failed to push for greater ideological diversity on faculties as hiring committees continue to replicate their own viewpoints and bias. It is not just students but faculty who face this pressure to self-censure. Faculty members risk canceling campaigns that threaten publications, conference invitations, and even their employment if they voice dissenting views.
“It is heartbreaking to meet with students who feel, even in law school, that they must remain silent in class to avoid the ire or retaliation from faculty.”