Elite Schools Are the Most Problematic on Free Speech

Northwestern University is in the midst of significant protests and violence surrounding the “NU Community Not Cops” movement, which intends to march every day until the school abolishes its university police. University president Morton Schapiro has condemned the violent student activity, which has disrupted businesses and local neighborhoods, defaced property, and violated laws and university standards. Students have “moved well past legitimate forms of free speech,” Schapiro says, rightly.

This is no isolated incident, however. Disruptions and violent incidents often appear to be more common at elite schools – not just Northwestern but others such as USC, UC Berkeley, Middlebury College, and Claremont McKenna College, to name a few.

Thanks to the new 2020 College Free Speech Rankings from RealClearEducation, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), and research firm College Pulse, empirical evidence confirms this suspicion. The rankings are based on the largest study of student attitudes about speech to date, sampling some 20,000 students. It turns out that students enrolled in the country’s most elite schools are appreciably more willing to shut down speech and expression with which they disagree than the overwhelming majority of college students at non-elite schools. [ … ]

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