The Balancing Act: Freedom of Speech and Inclusivity on U.S. College Campuses

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College campuses are faced with reconciling two opposing values—promoting freedom of speech and ideological diversity, versus censoring speech that marginalizes minority students and threatens the learning environment. Colleges have instated speech codes of varying degrees of harshness in order to limit offensive speech. This study assesses whether undergraduate students’ attitudes toward freedom of speech differ depending on whether they attend universities with restrictive versus unrestrictive speech policies. I administered an anonymous survey to undergraduates at Duke, Emory and Davidson. The findings illustrated a likemindedness across college-generation students despite varying speech policies at their universities. Students revealed a slight preference for curtailing offensive speech in order to protect minority sentiments and foster a positive learning environment. Females were more likely than men to take action against offensive speech. The results also illustrated how a majority of respondents felt that students would feel uncomfortable with expressing their socially conservative views. This trend was observed across the three schools and both genders. In conclusion, colleges are becoming increasingly more inclusive of minorities, but students with conservative viewpoints are being forced to self-censor, thereby limiting constructive ideological discourse on U.S college campuses.





Khanna, Sakshi (2017). The Balancing Act: Freedom of Speech and Inclusivity on U.S. College Campuses. Honors thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from

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