Campus Free Speech

Poll: Colleges Should Punish Students for Offensive Speech


A new HuffPost/YouGov survey found majority support for the position that colleges should punish students who engage in racially offensive speech.

Respondents consisted of 1,000 random adults from around the country—not just college students, in other words. Fifty-three percent agreed that colleges should discipline students for making racially insensitive comments. Just 28 percent disagreed, and 19 percent weren't sure.

Participants were also asked to rank a set of priorities: Preventing discrimination at the expense of free speech was (narrowly) deemed more important than protecting free speech at all costs.

The results broke down along partisan and racial lines, according to Campus Reform:

Just four percent of black respondents identified an absolute right to free speech as their top priority, for instance, while 69 percent valued a discrimination-free environment most highly. White people responded less monolithically, but in general were slightly less supportive of speech restrictions than was the general population.

Distinctions were also pronounced between Republican and Democrat respondents, contributing to the somewhat muddled overall results but offering clarification of the ideological divide on campus race issues.

This survey seems broadly consistent with other recent appraisals of public sentiment relating to free speech on campus.