October 6, 2020
Contact: Christian Basi, 573-882-4430, BasiC@missouri.edu
In the largest survey of college students about free speech climate on 55 college campuses, the University of Missouri came in at No. 13 overall, and No. 8 among public universities. The survey, conducted by The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), College Pulse and RealClearEducation, indicates which campuses are most open to free speech and ensuring their climate is welcoming to differing perspectives.
Approximately 20,000 students enrolled in four-year degree programs were surveyed at 55 colleges and universities in the United States. Survey respondents evaluated their universities in five categories: openness, tolerance, administrative support, self-expression and speech code.
“Free speech is not only a hallmark of our democracy, but also a vital component of the college experience,” UM System President and MU Chancellor Mun Choi said. “At Mizzou, our students know the exchange of ideas on difficult topics makes us all better students, citizens and individuals. We’re always proud when students choose to peacefully exercise their First Amendment rights and make their voices heard.”
Notably, survey respondents scored MU highest in the category of administrative support. This score indicates that a majority of students said they are confident the administration will defend a speaker’s rights in a free speech controversy, and 52% said they would feel very comfortable or somewhat comfortable writing an article or letter critical of the university administration in the student newspaper.
Students also highly scored the university in openness, or their perceived ability to have difficult conversations on campus. Two-thirds of survey respondents said they feel very comfortable or somewhat comfortable having a discussion about a controversial political topic with classmates.
Additionally, 77% of students said it’s never acceptable to use violent protest to stop a speech on campus.
“Our core values — respect, responsibility, discovery and excellence — depend on an atmosphere open to debate and diverse ideas,” Choi said. “These rankings are a reflection of the commitment made by students, faculty and staff at MU to foster an environment where the exercise of free speech is encouraged and strongly defended.”
The full report, “2020 College Free Speech Rankings: What’s the Climate for Free Speech on America’s College Campuses?” was published jointly by FIRE, College Pulse and RealClearEducation. To learn more about MU’s commitment to free expression and policies regarding speech on campus, please visit: freespeech.missouri.edu.
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