Campus Free Speech

74 Percent of College Students Support Snitching on Professors Who Make 'Offensive' Statements

Blame university administrators.


According to a new survey, a majority of college students believe that professors who say something "offensive" should be reported to the university.

The survey, from researchers at North Dakota State University, found that 74 percent of students overall supported reporting professors for offensive statements. While a majority of students from all political persuasions agreed with reporting professors, a higher percentage of liberal students were in favor; 81 percent of liberal students supported reporting professors, while only 53 percent of conservative students supported it.

Survey results | 2023 American College Student Freedom, Progress and Flourishing Survey
(2023 American College Student Freedom, Progress and Flourishing Survey)

The survey also found that 58 percent of students, including 66 percent of liberal students and 37 percent of conservative students, agreed that fellow students who make "offensive" statements should be reported to university administrators.

Researchers also presented students with a series of example statements and asked whether a professor should be reported for expressing these opinions in class. Students were much more likely to support reporting professors over typically "conservative" opinions. For example, 40 percent of all students (including 51 percent of liberal students and 15 percent of conservative students) agreed with reporting a professor for saying, "If you look at the data, there is no evidence of anti-black bias in police shootings." If a professor said that COVID-19 vaccine mandates are "an assault on individual freedom," 34 percent overall would favor reporting him. Thirty percent supported reporting a professor who spoke in favor of eliminating affirmative action.

But less than 15 percent of all students supported reporting professors for stating that not getting vaccinated for COVID-19 is "irresponsible," that those who oppose affirmative action are "perpetuating white privilege," or that a "civilized society doesn't need guns."

Survey results | 2023 American College Student Freedom, Progress and Flourishing Survey
(2023 American College Student Freedom, Progress and Flourishing Survey)

Overall, researchers found that two-thirds of surveyed students agreed that a professor should be reported for making one of the 10 example statements provided, including 75 percent of liberal students and 41 percent of conservative students.

These results indicate that a significant majority of college student support snitching on their professors—and peers—to university administrators for fairly mundane opinions on contemporary political subjects. 

"What I found alarming was students' willingness to report professors for stating opinions or facts. This year's survey clarified that they aren't talking about hate speech or harassment." John Bitzan, the survey's author, told The Hill. "An astounding 65 percent are in favor of reporting professors for stating opinions or facts about affirmative action, police shootings, vaccines, guns, and gender." 

The survey provides further support for concerns that American college students are increasingly unwilling to tolerate political opinions they disagree with. Most troubling, it seems that the bounds of what is deemed "offensive" has continued to expand. Not only do students now bristle at tolerating truly hateful speech, but they also seem unable to stand even basic observations on popular political issues.

An easy way to fix this problem would be for universities to stop making it so easy to tattle to administrators over minor political disagreements—and stop setting students up with the expectation that any offense deserves administrative involvement. 

However, that would require scaling back the huge bureaucracies that have exploded at many colleges for the express purpose of refereeing student and faculty speech—something most universities are unwilling to do.