Furman Places 163rd out of 248 in FIRE’s 2024 College Free Speech Rankings
78% of Furman Students are Uncomfortable Disagreeing with a Professor.
Here are a few highlights.
According to data collected by FIRE and College Pulse, a stunning 78% of the 238 Furman students surveyed are very or somewhat uncomfortable publicly disagreeing with a professor about a controversial political topic, just 3% felt very comfortable.
Sixty-three percent felt very or somewhat uncomfortable expressing views on a controversial political topic in a class discussion and 62% shared these feelings when it came to a written assignment. And 78% of students feel some, a good deal, or a great deal of pressure to avoid discussing controversial topics in class.
Self-censorship in the classroom is rampant at Furman. And isn’t the classroom precisely where students should be encouraged to think critically?
But it is not only the classroom. Some 62% of students responded that they would feel very or somewhat uncomfortable expressing their views on a controversial political topic to other students “during a discussion in a common campus space such as a quad, dining hall, or lounge.” Is this what we expect from a university dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge?
But there is some good news here as well.
While students appear to be fearful of disagreeing with a professor or speaking openly about difficult political issues to fellow students, they believe the administration will defend their right to speak.
Seventy-five percent of those surveyed said it was extremely, very, or somewhat clear that the administration protects free speech on campus. Good to see the students believe the administration has their back.
We must do everything we can to encourage the administration to continue to defend open inquiry on campus. But it needs to take a serious look at what these survey results say about its faculty and its campus culture in general. At the very least, it should ask itself the question: is our faculty promoting free inquiry or not?
Liberal education is a joke without free speech.
That is why the Furman Free Speech Alliance urges all those who care about the university’s future to join us in focusing on the primary reason this institution exists.
As noted in the Princeton Principles for a Campus Culture of Free Inquiry, “The core mission of the university, and its distinctive contribution to the American republic, is the pursuit of truth and advancement of knowledge through scholarship and teaching. This mission is sustained by freedom of inquiry, freedom of expression, and equality before laws and campus regulations. The best universities cultivate free and thoughtful minds.”
The College Free Speech Rankings suggest that Furman, in some important respects, is failing its students and needs to focus more clearly on its mission.
If you are interested in the methodology of this survey, details can be found here.