Survey: 57% of Students Afraid to Express Views in Class

February 4, 2023
World Net Daily

This story was originally published by the WND News Center.

A new survey reveals that most of the students who participated in a free speech assessment at the University of Wisconsin confirmed they fear expressing their views on some topics because other students will disagree, or it could hurt their grades.

WMTV reported a full one-third said they've felt pressure from an instructor to agree with a certain viewpoint.

"I want the University of Wisconsin system to be looked upon as a beacon across the country where people want to go if free speech rights are very important to them," Republican state Rep. David Murphy, chairman of the Assembly universities committee, said in the report.

The results were discussed at UW-Oshkosh.

Campus speech has become a battleground in recent years, as leftist students disrupt conservative speakers, student clubs, and more. Their stated perspective is that those who disagree with the leftist ideology simply do not have free speech and should not be allowed.

As a result, Republicans have pressured universities to protect free speech, and "crackdown on students who disrupt conservative speakers," the report said.

The survey was done by UW-Stout’s Menard Center for Public Policy and Service, and involved undergraduates at all 13 campuses.

The survey was funded partly from a donation from the family that founded Menards, a chain of home improvement centers, and it was controversial even before it went out.

The report explained, "UW-Whitewater Interim Chancellor Jim Henderson was so incensed with plans for the survey that he resigned over it in April. He said then that he was upset over then-Interim System President Michael Falbo’s decision to send out the survey after initially deciding that institutions wouldn’t do it. He accused Falbo of changing his mind because he feared political consequences from Republican lawmakers concerned about campus leaders stamping out conservative viewpoints."

Almost 57% of the respondents – which included thousands of students – said there have been times they've wanted to express their opinion on a controversial topic – but remained silent.

Sixty percent said they feared other students would disagree and 31% said they worried someone would file a complaint targeting them.

"About 40% said they were afraid their grades would suffer if they spoke up. Three-fourths of those students identified themselves as 'very conservative,'" the report said.

Thirty-seven percent said they've felt pressure from an instructor to agree with a "specific" viewpoint.

The constitutional expert noted commentator, and law professor Jonathan Turley said, "It is only the latest such poll on how the orthodoxy and intolerance of higher education are having a chilling effect on student speech and class discussions."

He continued, "These polls are an indictment of the entire teaching academy. We have converted our universities into echo chambers reflecting overwhelmingly (and sometimes virtually exclusively) liberal faculties. When these polls are raised, faculty often shrug off the concern for free speech and the complaints of rising viewpoint intolerance. It simply does not seem to matter that the vast majority of our students are consistently polling as being afraid to speak openly in classes."

He also noted the response that is developing.

"This latest poll comes as states are moving to use the power of the purse to force greater choice in education and diversity on faculties. This is a state school system and the legislature has every reason to seek measures to address the lack of intellectual diversity and tolerance on campuses or reduce the level of state funding for these schools."

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