Campus Free Speech

Students at Elite Colleges are the Most Hysterically Opposed to Offensive Speech, Data Shows

Middlebury is just one example.


It seems the most privileged students in the country are also the most fragile. Highly expensive, elite college campuses are more likely to play host to the kind of censorious madness on display at Middlebury College two weeks ago.

That's according to data compiled by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, and crunched into chart form by the Brookings Institution's Richard Reeves and Dimitrios Halikias. Reeves and Halikias put it all together in a format that makes the trend obvious:

In the figure below, we plot every university in America based on the proportion of students from families with incomes in the top quintile (vertical axis) and from the bottom quintile (horizontal). Marked in red are the "disinvitation colleges" described above. The pattern is clear: the more economically exclusive the institution, the more likely the students have attempted to hinder free speech.


The researchers note that they can't be exactly sure which students are shutting down speakers. It could be the case, for instance, that low-income students do more than their share of censoring. But Halikias and Reeves think that's unlikely, and I do as well.

Indeed, it wouldn't surprise me if students from humble backgrounds are underrepresented among the activist heckler class. They're probably going to class, hitting the library, and making sure their investment in an incredibly expensive college education does not go to waste. Highly privileged students, on the other hand, are probably less likely to appreciate the tremendous opportunity they are being afforded.

It's hard to avoid the conclusion that the students shrieking Marginalization! Oppression! Microaggression! at Charles Murray are some of the least marginalized or oppressed people in all of human history, given their substantial financial resources. The average yearly household income of a Middlebury student is nearly a quarter million dollars.

That's one reason that the average Middlebury student might have actually benefitted from Murray's talk. He had come to campus to discuss his recent book, Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010, which examines the perceived divide between the white upper class and working class whites who are struggling financially. The book's themes certainly resonate in 2017, after Donald Trump won the presidency by appealing to the exact sort of economic issues Murray identified.

Agree or disagree with Murray, it's inarguable that his thoughts about the white working class are well worth considering, especially for college students who are more likely to uninformed about those voters' concerns. Unfortunately, the exact people who have the most to gain from exposure to intellectual diversity—elite college students—are the ones rejecting it most forcefully.

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  1. The word “hysterical” has problematic origins in cishet white misogyny and patriarchy, Robby. It is Not Okay for you to use it.

    1. How about hersterical?

      1. I actually like that better, but I think they’d like it worse. Which is probably why I like it better.

    2. Have you ever Had a Hysterectomy? If not, please do not judge those who hysterical.

    3. Hysteria is what vibrators were designed to cure, no?

  2. You mean middle class kids have things to worry about, like work and schoolwork, while the rich preppy kids have the most mental issues?

    Color me shocked. It’s just like when I went to am expensive private school for the last 2 years — many of the people who lived at school and partied on mommy and daddy’s dime were flakes and dropped out, and me and many of the commuter students actually got A’s and got out on time

    1. me and many of the commuter students actually got A’s and got out on time

      I must be the exception that proves the rule. Well, I flaked for the first 3 years, anyway. The A’s came later and the getting out on time never happened.

    2. many of the people who lived at school and partied on mommy and daddy’s dime were flakes and dropped out, and me and many of the commuter students actually got A’s and got out on time

      Yes, but where are the flakes now? Probably sitting in boardrooms or in DC. Getting good grades is all well and good, but it won’t get you in the door like schmoozability will.

  3. This post did a great job addressing the immediate critique that it’s likely to be elite colleges who also issue more controversial invitations.

    1. Milo would never stoop to accepting an invite to Cal State Hayward. Eeew!

    2. Just as you did a great job of showing it to be so.

      I hereby accuse you of being gay. The burden is now on you to show me data that will convince be otherwise.

    3. Milo visited Clemson, not exactly elite, and didn’t have the riots. Sure, progressives (as always) tried to shut it down, but violence didn’t really occur (and it’s sad that it takes a level of violence for progressive violence to officially “occur”)

      Why could the “more elite” Berkeley not do the same?

      1. Berkeley is not elite. Berkeley used to be one of the best college outside Ivy league schools.. in the 1950 and early 1960s. Berkeley is an overpriced, undereducating cesspool of socialists trying to spread whatever lefty agenda is still not working.

        1. I notice Berkeley is still ranked as one of the best schools for Engineering.

  4. Is it safe to say at this point these well off liberals getting upset actually this and the whole resistance stuff? Like they are LARPing

    1. These pantywaists have destroyed LARPing.
      I am a co-founder of one of the most played in the world since 1983 and they just banned Drow Elves because the face paint is an aggression towards people of color. Even though I no longer actively play I have sad. 🙁

      True story.

      1. But don’t the Drow get a pass for being matriarchal? Shouldn’t that be a wash at least?

    2. There are no such thing as liberals, and I have the data to prove it.

  5. Indeed, it wouldn’t surprise me if students from humble backgrounds are underrepresented among the activist heckler class. They’re probably going to class, hitting the library, and making sure their investment in an incredibly expensive college education does not go to waste. Highly privileged students, on the other hand, are probably less likely to appreciate the tremendous opportunity they are being afforded.

    Going to class, hitting the library and making sure your incredibly expensive college education does not go to waste doesn’t, at least superficially, seem to include copious amounts of drunken hookups. Might be interesting to see a similar plot of Title IX Violations/Kangaroo Court Cases. Maybe convince FIRE that forcing men to shut the hell up about their sexual assaults and/or encouraging women to speak more freely/falsely about assaults is a free speech issue too?

    1. Er, preclude not include.

  6. Makes sense to me. Stanford University has an disinvite protest every time there is a right-of-left speaker, while Fresno State, a mere 160 miles away, has had ONE my entire lifetime.Also, when I was in university, UCSD had constant protests while SDSU had zero. I NEVER hear of anything ever going on at Cal State universities, while the UC Berkeley campus is disinvitarian central. Is this just the pattern for California?

    Elite versus commoner or enlightened versus party school? Not sure, but I suspect the former.

    p.s. On the other hand, UCLA is constantly in a state of protest, while far more elite USC never is…

    1. What happened with that dudebro at Berkely that broke the wooden sign? Anything?

    2. The UC bureaucracy itself has empowered the protestors in ways that the CSU bureaucracy has not, especially with regards to Title IX due to a few incidents that took place on UC campuses. Perhaps unrelated but the UC bureaucracy also dwarves that of the CSUs

    3. Isn’t right always to the right of left? Or is “right-of-left” some kind of koan?

      1. Middle is also right of left. I guess I’m not seeing the problem with the sentence that you’re seeing.

      2. If you are not far left then you are a right wing reactionary. Gavin Newsome was called by a right wing reactionary by his mayoral opponents. Seriously. Hence “right-of-left” to describe anyone not fully on board with the identitarian SJWite agenda.

        1. I hear most of the purity stuff coming from the Bernies, who hate SJW stuff as much as you idiots.

          1. I’ve never met a Bernie supporter who isn’t an SJW. For a brief moment in time they were upset at the lefties who thought gender was more important than class, but it’s hardly a major rift.

            Remember all the ‘progressive stack’ bullshit at the occupy protests.

            The fact is, someone who is dumb enough to believe a (probably female) HR clerical worker deserves to get paid as much as a (probably male) bricklayer despite the latter being more productive and more dangerous, because feminism, is probably also dumb enough to think someone so stupid and lazy they can barely hold a job taking orders at Taco Bell deserves $15 am hour.

            1. You were responding to just such a person although the taco bell thing in this case is probably more self interest than batshit crazy proggesivism.

    4. USC is #23 ranked. UCLa is… 24

  7. Whiny spoiled brats act like whiny spoiled brats. What a shocker.

  8. I wonder what college’s have had the most protest in the past 20years or just in general?

  9. I’m still stunned that this is news. Did anyone believe that all the safe-space hysteria was occurring at Pima Community College where people were trying to get their associates or become an RN or dental technician?

    This whole phenomenon occurring on America’s Universities is White People Problems writ large.

    1. I wonder how much of a correlation there is also with:

      a – size of the schools endowment
      b – cost of tuition over time
      c – economic crappiness/dilettantishness of degrees

      I know these are exactly the schools that have deliberately driven up student loans by driving up tuition and are the ones who have been most active in the college marketing idea that ‘college is worth it cuz lifetime earnings so mortgage your future income and give it to us’.

  10. 60% of the people admitted to my alma mater were able to spell their own names correctly on the first try.

    1. Fact: Hugh Akston got his B.A. and two Masters degrees from homeschool.

      1. And he was still nearly expelled as part of a Title IX complaint.

        1. His sister wanted it.

      2. Since he lived at the juvenile correctional institution where he got his degrees, I guess they were home school.

  11. Indeed, it wouldn’t surprise me if students from humble backgrounds are underrepresented among the activist heckler class. They’re probably going to class, hitting the library, and making sure their investment in an incredibly expensive college education does not go to waste.

    But don’t you see? This is exactly why the more privileged students need to speak up for the less privileged. And those more privileged students will be proud to admit such at the tops of their lungs.

  12. It’s like a sequel to The Graduate. Elaine turns out even more protective than her mother and has fused her 60’s & 70’s progressivism with identity politics and ? well, real privilege ? that can afford to insulate her snowflakes by sending them as legacies to elite prep schools and colleges. These cloistered communities ? now run, of course, by Mrs. (and Mr.) Robinson ? whose illiberal tendencies manifest themselves in policies, administrators and bureaucrats that keep the Bens’ of the world away, both physically and intellectually, from their cultural bubble and gated institutions.

  13. Unless you are an affirmative action minority, you pretty much have to have a perfect academic record to get into an “elite school” and you also have to have just the right extracurricular activities. You have to be more than just smart to do that. You also have to be unbelievably conformist and possess an almost feral sense of how to tell your parents and teachers what they want to hear. Anyone who isn’t that way will eventually get cross ways with a teacher and lose their perfect academic record. Such a person will also likely rebel against their parents and forgo doing all of the correct activities necessary for admission to an elite school.

    When you understand that, it makes perfect sense that students at the these schools would be hostile to free speech. If they could think for themselves or had any backbone, they would have never been admitted in the first place.

    1. Sour grapes, order up.

      1. I went to an elite school, Tony. And I went to one for a degree that counts, a grad degree. Not sour grapes, just the truth.

        1. How does being clever enough to work the system make one a conformist? I don’t see the connection.

          Besides, the point is that the richer the kids are the more likely they are to engage in anti-speech, so your point has nothing to do with anything.

          But you are totally right that the ones who get off with the most are those loser affirmative action kids, because grabbing whatever dark-skinned drooling moron off the street they can find is totally how that works in admissions.

          1. How does doing what the system wants you to do make you a conformist?

            That is your inquiry?

            So, if we make gays stay in the closet and never once express their sexuality, we’re not trying to make them conform? We’re just teaching them to play the system?

            1. They can play the system if they have to without being stupid.

    2. Elite schools have almost nothing to do with academics. They are all about buying access to a network of future employers and social elites. That is also why academics is not really the focus of 4 years there. Rather, social signaling and other social cues are. The modern equivalent of a debutante’s ball.

      1. Sounds like the opinion of someone who’s attended a lot of elite colleges, for sure.

        1. Yeah I did attend (a regional elite one). Elite schools trumpet highly competitive admissions. But the reality is that, once in, their 4yr graduation rates are the lowest competitive too. ie – students aren’t being admitted or choosing to apply because of actual rigorous coursework with tough teachers directed towards challenging majors etc. The application/admission is the point of ‘making it’. Once in, its Lake Woebegon and all the kiddies is above average and they can achieve wonders in their lives by studying semi-nonsense. I’ll bet if you look at the example in this post – Middlebury – that’s the case.

          1. Nonsense is in the eye of the beholder, but I can’t dispute your claim since I was the top student in both my degrees. It would seem cruel to like flunk the bottom half of the class considering they, too, were all in the top of their high school classes. Everyone is indeed above average.

        2. He’s actually correct: incomes of people who got into elite schools but went to a less prestigious school match that she of people who actually went to the more prestigious school. In other words, going to Harvard is nearly worthless; being smart enough to get in, whether you go there or not, is what matters.

          I’m amused by your compulsion to jump in and defend the ivy leagues. You can get just as good an education at a less prestigious school. You’re like someone desperately trying to convince others that a Jaguar really is 9 times as good a car functionally as a Honda Civic and that’s why it costs that much more. It’s kind of sad.

          1. Who said anything about Ivies? They benefit from a horrendous amount of unearned prestige that has all sorts of negative consequences, including the fact that you can’t really become an Important Person without going there, even if you can get a qualitatively equal education somewhere else.

            1. Additionally, Important Person status is really only conferred on people who go to one of two of the Ivies.

              I guess that’s one thing Republicans have going for them–they take people even from Texas schools. But that may be swinging the pendulum too far.

  14. I am sure it was an accidental journalistic oversight on the part of Mr. Soave, but fully half of the incidents that make up the data are conservative students protesting speakers they don’t like. I just think it would be useful to clarify that.

    1. There was one where the victim of this “illiberalism” was Desmond Tutu (too abortiony).

      I mean, at least liberals protest actual human scum.

    2. Citation needed. Which speakers are these?

      1. I followed the links to the underlying data, you can too.

      2. In other words, he made it up.

        1. I suppose clicking two links was too heroic of an effort for Paloma and American Socialist. We should all keep that level of devotion to research in mind when reading anything else they post.

          Perhaps the two of you could do the community a favor and let us know what schools attended to learn these mad investigative skills? Trump University, perhaps?

          1. Tony had to go back to 2012, five years ago, to find a protest that Desmond Tutu shouldn’t be speaking at a Catholic University (Gonzaga) because he favored abortion and mercy killing. Did rioters shut him down? Spoiler: NO

            1. “Fully half” What a pendejo.

            2. Who wouldn’t protest anyone with a name like “Tutu”?

      3. Click on “crunched into chart form” in the article, and then click on the “data” link.

        Count filtered on disinvitation from the left: 71
        Count filtered on disinvitation from the right: 56

        Not quite “fully half” but a lot closer than most people reading the article or commenting here would assume.

      4. Not sure how good any of the data is for this study. Just from a quick glance, George W. Bush is listed as a disinvitation from the *right* in 2004, and the details even confuse whether it was University of Arizona or University of Alabama.

        The thirteenth strike of the clock is not only wrong in and of itself, but casts grave doubt as to the credibility of the preceding twelve.

    3. Sour grapes huh? Your team looks looks like babies

      1. We just get a little overzealous when white supremacists come to campus. You guys are the ones kicking Archbishop Desmond Tutu out because he’s not sufficiently Jesusy. But that doesn’t make the front page of Right-Wing Retard News so your sputtering little brain doesn’t latch onto it.

        1. When has a white supremacist come to campus?

        2. Which white supremacist? You’re not referring to the guy who married outside his race and accurately noted that East Asians have the highest IQs are you?

          I bet if a non-leftist said he didn’t like the taste of Rice you’d call him anti-rice and suggest he wanted to starve the Chinese. Whenever you have to lie about your opponents to yourself it doesn’t speak well of your ideas.

    4. Let’s look at these from “the right”

      1) Albright from GWU.

      2) Kerrey from Marist:

      3) Mumia Abu-Jamal from Antioch:

      4) Delores Cross from Seton Hall.

      5) Carly Fiorina from Stanford:

      6) Jonny Moseley from Berkeley:

      7) Tom Paulin at Harvard:

      8) Janis Heaphy:

      9) Frances Kissling from Holy Cross:

      10) Lynne Stewart from Stanford Law:

      11) Zayed Yasin from Harvard:

      So, on the first page of the database, 11 “disinvitations” from “The Right”. 2 clearly not from the Right. 1 involved parents upset that she was using their students’ graduation to make a non-related speech, 1 involved a Catholic group opposing a speaker while providing no evidence that they did more than say “We don’t approve of him”, 1 involved cops opposing a cop killer speaking (cop and conservatives aren’t synonyms), 1 involved a guy who dropped out of college being opposed as a commencement speaker (and the idea that conservatives at Berkeley have the power to stop a speaker is laughable), 1 didn’t involve a speech, but a job. We add in one where the President said we won’t pay the fee (the grups could’ve raised the fee themselves) from school monies.

      And that gives us 1, clear-cut, disinvitation from a speech eminating from the Right clearly.

      And that is on page one. FIRE’s descriptors seem off here.

  15. Not everyone thinks hate-speech and vile right wing spewage is acceptable. Protesting that type of speech, is Free Speech, too. Oh well.

    1. So you think burning things and beating people and shouting down the speaker is “free speech”? Oh, and there has never been a conservative riot.

    2. So, conservatives should oppose all progressives? Their speech is even more hateful and is vile left-wing spewage.

    3. “Not everyone thinks hate-speech and vile right wing spewage is acceptable.”

      At least you’re clear that you oppose free speech.

  16. You mean like they actually are the entitled “precious little snowflakes” that the peanut gallery says they are?

  17. It’s OK, Robby. We know those icky conservatives probably deserved it and would do so much worse if given the chance. Sure, they never have before, but we all know, amirite?

  18. Sad that the work from home spam makes as much sense as some of the other comments.
    Is it just Robby?

  19. It’s even worse that many of today’s “activist” groups on campus attempt to put themselves in the same light as activists on campuses in the 1960s. Instead of questioning and opposing college administration and authority in general, they are subservient to that authority and call on that authority to oppress fellow students. The two periods couldn’t be any different.

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