Researcher says students want free speech, diversity to be considered on college campuses

Researcher Evette Alexander said in an interview that aired Friday on “Rising” that college students want educators and policymakers to equally consider free speech and diversity on campuses. 

“Overall, the study showed that college students do have strong support for free speech and free expression rights, with a majority of students supporting those rights in a variety of forms including our fundamental rights in the Constitution, as well as campus speakers,” Alexander, director of learning and impact at the Knight Foundation, told Hill.TV’s Krystal Ball and Buck Sexton. 

“We also heard differing opinions on whether it’s more important to promote an inclusive society that welcomes diverse groups or to protect the free speech rights in their entirety,” she continued.

“From the findings and student feedback that we’ve gotten, what we heard students saying is that free expression is important but so is diversity,” she said. “So as educators and policymakers think about this in the future, college students would like them to consider both values.”  

Alexander was referring to a recent survey conducted by the Knight Foundation, which found that 53 percent of students favored protecting free speech rights, while 46 percent said that it was important to promote an inclusive and welcoming society. 

Concern about free speech on college campuses has gained national attention in recent years, resulting in President Trump taking action on the issue. 

In March, Trump signed an executive order that requires higher education institutions to certify that they are enforcing free speech standards in order to receive grants from government agencies, including the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services and Defense. 

— Julia Manchester

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