FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

December 16, 2020

CONTACT: Logan Elizabeth Padgett

850-386-3131

NEW JMI REPORT CALLS FOR SURVEY TO MEASURE FREE SPEECH AMONG FLORIDA UNIVERSITIES

TALLAHASSEE –A new report by The James Madison Institute’s Stan Marshall Center entitled, “Combatting ‘Idea Suppression:’ How Florida Universities Can Continue their Rise to National Prominence,” reviews the importance of free speech among today’s universities at a time where free speech is more important than ever. The JMI report compiles a variety of different measures that examine how well universities protect free speech, promote a campus culture open to different viewpoints, and respond to speech-bullying by those seeking to drown out viewpoints they oppose.

The report cites a 2019 Heterodox Academy survey of 1,580 students from across the country which measured how common “self-censorship” is among students in the classroom. Heterodox found 58.5 percent of all students are somewhat or very reluctant to give their views in at least one of five controversial topic areas—politics, religion, race, gender, or sexuality. Overall, 55 percent of the students responding feel that the climate on their campus prevents students from saying things they believe.

In the report, William Mattox, calls for “scholars at every Florida public university to conduct an annual survey that assesses the health of its campus culture.” Just this week, Senator Ray Rodrigues filed a bill in the Florida House that would require each Florida College System institution to conduct an annual assessment related to intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity at that institution.

“Viewpoint diversity and spirited discourse are critical to the pursuit of truth,” writes Mattox. “If students and professors perceive that they must tiptoe around certain topics lest they ‘trigger’ someone, that is not an environment conducive to learning – or to new discovery.”

JMI’s report comes shortly after a recent survey conducted at the University of North Carolina found that roughly two of every five UNC students had engaged in “self-censorship” on campus – either out of fear of being shunned by their peers or receiving a lower grade from their professors. These findings should get the attention of Florida legislators and university officials interested in positioning Florida schools for future success in the world of higher education.

The JMI policy brief is available at: https://www.jamesmadison.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/PolicyBrief_CampusSpeech_Oct2020_v02.pdf

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The James Madison Institute is a 501(c)3 organization dedicated to the advancement of free markets and liberty. The Institute conducts research on such issues as criminal justice, health care, taxes, and regulatory environments.