University of North Carolina Study Finds Conservative Students Engage in Self-Censorship on Campus

With the start of classes at George Washington Law School, I have already had visits to my office of conservative and libertarian students asking if I thought they could speak freely in other classes without being penalized by professors. Despite teaching for decades, it is a question that I never heard from students until the last few years. It is now routine. It is the widespread fear of conservative students who have faced faculties with overwhelmingly liberal viewpoints and growing intolerance on virtually every campus as undergraduate students. Now a new study at North Carolina confirms how conservative students routinely “self-censor” and do not feel comfortable sharing their views in classes. Not surprisingly given the heavy liberal makeup of faculties, liberal students feel little such fear over retaliation.

Polls have shown that sixty-five (65) percent agreed that people on campus today are prevented from speaking freely and an earlier poll at the University of North Carolina found that conservative students are 300 times more likely to self-censor themselves due to the intolerance of opposing views on our campuses.

This study was conducted under a grant from the university by political scientists Timothy Ryan and Andrew Engelhardt of the University of North Carolina, political scientist Jennifer Larson of Vanderbilt, and business scholar Mark McNeilly. The UNC surveyed students from eight UNC institutions and found the same sharp contrast.

Only seven percent of liberal students were concerned about how their professor’s ideology would affect their grades while that rate is 6 times higher for conservatives at 42 percent. Sixty-eight percent of conservatives were worried about sharing their views with other students (as opposed to 31 percent among liberal students).

The authors also concluded that a “significant number of students have concerns about stating their sincere political views in class and have self-censored because they were concerned about the potential reactions.”

Universities have failed to push for greater ideological diversity on faculties as hiring committees continue to replicate their own viewpoints and bias. It is not just students but faculty who face this pressure to self-censure. Faculty members risk cancel campaigns that threaten publications, conference invitations, and even their employment if they voice dissenting views.

It is heartbreaking to meet with students who feel, even in law school, that they must remain silent in class to avoid the ire or retaliation from faculty. Most faculties have a small and diminishing number of conservative or libertarian members. I discuss that long trend in my recent publication in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy. The article is entitled “Harm and Hegemony: The Decline of Free Speech in the United States.



212 thoughts on “University of North Carolina Study Finds Conservative Students Engage in Self-Censorship on Campus”

  1. Think back to the Viet Nam era when students protested the government freely. Imagine if those opposing the government were shut down, cancelled as they are now.

  2. I’d say the primary reason is they don’t want irrational leftist loons getting in their face and screwing around with their daily lives.

  3. There are those posting on this blog who tell us that students and Professors on the left are discriminated against as much as students and Professors on the right. It seems curious that they make this statement but offer no examples of such occurrences. Ah ha here is my response and evidence of my accusation is not required. Are there any adults in the room? Well, they typed their required letters for the day.

  4. In a way, this censorship has always been with us, even decades ago. As a high school student, for example, it didn’t take me long to recognize that in such classes as history or English the students taking positions agreeing with teachers tended to receive high grades, while the students taking opposing positions (or positions not looked at favorably by the teachers) received lower grades.

    And this was well before high schools, colleges, and universities were essentially eliminated as institutions of genuine learning and transitioned to become Leftist Indoctrination Enties or “LIEs; basically factories to create compliant cogs.

    I bring up how things worked in the “old days” because they provide a roadmap for how to deal with today’s open censorship. Students who understand what’s really going and feel reluctant to express those realities should simply openly express the lies that the LIES want them to adopt. In fact, they should go on the attack, criticizing teachers and other students for not expressing views that are woke-leftist enough. When students apply those tactics, they will find that they will be amply rewarded and protected. Life is a game. And you have to play by the rules–corrupt, unethical, and devoid of reason as they may be.

    Just temporarily file away your intelligence, integrity, and ethics when you enter the perimeters of a LIE zone and you’ll be fine.

  5. It’s not just universities and law schools. Professionals also face this issue in corporate America. Conservatives are forced to self-censor for fear of losing their jobs.

  6. We won the cold war, communism is winning the hot peace.
    Who will fight for us like we fought for the world?

  7. Really?
    Have you even been following what the DOJ and FBI have been up to as of late?
    Probably not. You get your news from CNN.

    And before you try the “YOU WATCH FOX!” strawman, as I have said more than a few times on this blog, I do not have cable, I do not watch Fox, or visit their website.
    I read independent media, like Glenn Greenwald, Matt Taibbi, Bari Weiss, Charles H. Smith, Sharyl Attkisson and others.

  8. When I used to try to persuade some first and second year students to try something which was new-for-them, I ordinarily failed. Wouldn’t consider attending a meeting of either the Young Democrats or the Republican equivalent; wouldn’t consider attending a noon session of political science professor Clayton’s Current Affairs, despite the pizza offered there. Rarely agreed to attend a concert put on by the School of Music students or faculty. Attend a women’s soccer match, WSU having a nationally rated team; nope.

    As for political views, the ones I interacted with were largely completely uninterested. I would would point that now that they were 18 they were expected to inform themselves and vote. This was met with dismay.

    Maybe the ones I knew were not representative? I opine otherwise.

  9. It is not just conservatives being cancelled or marginalized. Democrats identity politics strategies are dividing racial groups and it has irked blacks in NYC. A group of blacks in NYC have filed a federal lawsuit against the city’s Board of Elections regarding allowing illegal immigrants to have a say in local elections. In other words, “live by divide & conquer, die by divide & conquer”. It was only a matter of time when Democrats divisiveness backfired, because they really have no ideas to address our nation’s woes. It is instructive that blacks are now calling Democrats racists because they are. Better late than never.

    The lawsuit states, in part:

    Local Law 11 violates the Fifteenth Amendment and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act because it was adopted with impermissible racial intent. It was the explicit intent of the Law’s sponsors to increase the voting strength of certain racial subgroups while simultaneously decreasing the voting strength of other racial subgroups. An election law enacted with any racial intent or purpose is unconstitutional under the Fifteenth Amendment and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. As the Supreme Court of the United States has stated, “There is no room under the Amendment for the concept that the right to vote in a particular election can be allocated based on race.”

    According to data from the 2020 American Community Survey of the United States Census, there are approximately 1,300,000 foreign nationals residing in Bronx, Kings, New York and Queens Counties. Of that total, approximately 495,000 are Hispanic and 348,000 are Asian.

    New York City has approximately five million active registered voters. The addition of approximately one million foreign-citizen voters could potentially make up almost 20 percent or more of the electorate in future New York City elections. This is greater than the margin of victory in many municipal elections.

    1. “There’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the Democrats and Republicans.” Gov. George Wallace

  10. Jonathan: It seems we are back to your usual complaint –that conservative students and faculty are a vanishing breed on university campuses and resort to “self-censorship” to avoid criticism. So I will repeat my previous question. Why do conservative ideas have so little appeal? It seems that is the fundamental Q you never answer. Another Q is while conservatives are afraid to express their views. If you are a committed conservative why would you be afraid of criticism? Doesn’t make sense that you would not want to stand up for the ideas you believe in.

    But you claim your conservative law students feel “they must remain silent in class to avoid the ire or retaliation from faculty”. That is counter intuitive when you consider how law classes are conducted. Unlike other disciplines law professors in introductory law classes employ the “Socratic method”–that involves cold-calling on students and interrogating them about facts and decisions in various court decisions. The Socratic method in law classes can be intimidating, but the purpose is to test the limits of the student’s knowledge and preparation and be able to clearly articulate the issues. I doubt any law professor cares about how a student comes out on any particular legal issue. What is important is whether the student clearly understands all aspects of the legal issues and is able to clearly explain them.

    Law school is about being able to effectively communicate–to cogently articulate both sides of important legal questions so that when they become attorneys they can effectively represent their clients. Law students don’t get points for “remaining silent” when called upon in class. In fact, it may affect their grade–but that’s not “retaliation”. I doubt you would give a “conservative” student in one of your classes a pass if they remained silent. Any student, whether conservative or liberal, who remains silent in class doesn’t belong in law school!

    1. Dennis McIntyre, we can see that you are well versed in the what happens in a class on the law. One of the prominent things taught in a law class is the importance of evidence. Professor Turley has presented evidence of prejudice on college campuses in America today. Evidence of shouting down conservative speakers. Evidence of Professors being dismissed from their positions because of their conservative views. These are not just just one off instances but have been shown to be a pattern of discrimination. One would think that evidence would be of tantamount importance in your understanding of the law. Instead, you see what you want to see and hear what you want to hear and disregard the rest. We have here a lawyer who is willing to simply disregard the evidence to satisfy his psychological need to be the one who is always right. We get it, you employ counter argument to increase your skills. We get the game.

      1. ThinkitThrough: I have frequently been accused going off topic in my comments. Here I confined myself to Prof. Turley’s claim that some of his conservative students feel they must remain silent in class “to avoid the ire or retaliation from faculty”. That’s simply nonsense for anyone who has attended law school–especially the “retaliation” part. Whether “conservative” or “liberal” all law students are treated the same. If you watched the 1973 movie “Paper Chase” you get a pretty good idea, although exaggerated, of what happens inside a law school classroom. It’s not for the faint hearted. But what’s clear is that if you “remain silent” when asked a Q you will soon be advised to change your course of study. I don’t doubt some “conservative” law students are reluctance to express their political views in the classroom. But inside the class room that’s irrelevant. All that is required is that you know all the cases you are assigned for reading and you are expected to be able to discuss them in intimate detail.

        Speaking of “evidence” does Turley offer any evidence of “retaliation” against any student at GWUSL? I didn’t see any, did you? I rest my case. And I don’t have a “psychological need to be the one who is always right”. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be married to the same woman I refer to as “she who must be obeyed”. She is always right!

    2. Dennis

      Are you naive or just pretending to be naive?

      This is the real world.

    3. ” Why do conservative ideas have so little appeal?”

      They don’t have limited appeal. The inexperienced young and the non-elitist ignorant people along with those that sponge off of government are not conservatives. One has to first face reality to get rid of Wokeism.

    4. “Any student, whether conservative or liberal, who remains silent in class doesn’t belong in law school!”

      This shouldn’t be limited to law students or even college students.

      If not me, who? If not now, when?
      Micah 6:8 “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To do justice and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

      1. Prairie Rose: Agreed. All students need to respond when called upon in class. I was a history major in undergraduate school and you didn’t get points for remaining silent. The students who got better grades were those who were proactive–raising their hands to be called upon. In my comment I was confining myself to Turley’s statement re some conservative students in his law school. His claim about law school just doesn’t make sense. “Conservative” students need to speak up and not act like wall flowers. It seems counterintuitive that if you are really committed to your ideas you would remain silent. You will notice that I, and a couple of others, are a distinct minority in this chatroom. I could join more “liberal” platforms but I would be preaching to the choir. I need a challenge. It gets the juices flowing. You need to test your ideas against those with opposing views. Notice I use my real name. I am not hiding behind a fictitious handle. The only problem in this chatroom is that some suggest that if you have an opposing POV you should go someplace else. If there is anything we know about Turley he is a “free speech absolutist”. So it is strange that those who provide an echo chamber for his views don’t want to hear from someone who might disagree.

    5. “Why do conservative ideas have so little appeal?”

      I think this is a mistaken impression.

      “Another Q is while conservatives are afraid to express their views.”

      They shouldn’t be, but, it does get very tiresome to get name-called and bullied by people who won’t engage in fair-minded debate. And, perhaps it’s an issue of trust. Ironic that law students would be untrusting of their professors and the process, considering the goal is logic and blind justice. Perhaps they sense the scales are not fairly balanced.

      1. Prairie Rose: Notice that Turley concentrates his criticisms on what he claims is happening on university campuses. If we look at the larger society the picture is quite different. Public school teachers in Florida and elsewhere are being told they cannot discuss the racial history of this country–nor subjects on LGBT subjects. Teachers are being “bullied”. And it’s hard to believe but books are being banned that don’t reflect a “conservative” POV. Gov. DeSantis doesn’t want a “fair-minded debate”. He wants to impose his conservative views on all teachers. That’s censorship. So teachers “self-censor” if they want to keep their jobs. Would you call this “fairly balanced”? Do you see Turley complain about these “free speech” violations? My point here is that when conservatives have control they do exactly what they complain about in others. Do you support what DeSantis is doing to public education in Florida?

    6. I personally experienced how sharing my views that began to become more conservative in law school resulted in lower grades. I received A’s from my contracts professor when I spouted his political BS, after the midterms,when I discussed my thoughts that Al Gore was behaving like a child in not conceeding the election of 2000. My grades mysteriously went to C’s after he told me only a ‘Bleeping’ idiot would support a Republican candidate.That was over 20 years ago and it seems like it has gotten worse at our college campuses. I won’t send, my kids to a liberal instituiton.
      I saw this bias against consrrvatives over and over again. If you are smart you shut up and tell them what they want to hear. Its not about IRAC. Iys about stroking a tyrant’s ego, your grades and livelihood depend upon it. Conservative ideas made this country a great place. Unfortunately modern acedemia is not a place to debate ideas, unless you want to graduate the bottom of the class. Follow the money. While they scream a belief in ‘diversity’ the super majority of professors support left leaning causes and are intolerant of views that counter their own.

  11. The left Professors and students on campuses across the nation are just members of the Get Piggyist Party. It’s interesting how fiction written in the past turns to reality in the future. Lord Of The Flies is brought to the great American campus. They will be the first to tell you how civilized they have become due to the education that proves their superiority. They lower their eyes to the bottom of their sockets to look down on those with differing opinion while declaring their right to freedom of speech. It is time to see them for who they are.

  12. Maybe American college students could learn from African tribesman on how to be civil. Apparently some African tribes have a “Talking Stick” – just a piece of wood.

    The only rules are the person holding the Talking-Stick is not interrupted while speaking. When the speaker is finished he hands the talking stick to another speaker who gets equal time to speak uninterrupted.

    If Americans are acting tribal, maybe we could learn from real African tribesman how to be civil?

    1. I seem to recall a book that attempted something similar to the Talking-Stick.
      Someone tried to control, hold on to the stick at all times.
      Then, someone else dropped a rock on Piggy’s head.
      Piggy spoke no more.

      Seems to me, some could try to hold a stick, have a rally, but someone else does not want to give them the respect of The Talking-Stick. By shouting them down. Tearing up their signs. Disrupting their rally.
      If they could drop a rock and get away with it, I think they would.

  13. When I was in college, there was censorship of free speech on both sides of the political spectrum.

    Ironically, Alan Dershowitz was a big advocate of censorship back in ’07/’08. As a young libertarian, I distinctly remember a heated debate between radical left wing professor J. Lorand Matory and pro-Israel law professor Mr. Dershowitz regarding whether Harvard campus should allow Iranian Dictator Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (a Holocaust denier, among other things) a platform to speak on campus (which Columbia had just done).

    Dershowitz essentially argued that Harvard must be a safe space on campus for Jewish students and that giving Ahmadinejad a platform to espouse his anti-semitic views would legitimize his hateful disinformation.

    I think about that every time he ridicules the left’s safe spaces on Fox News. No one should support Ahmadinejad, but he was a foreign head of state at the time and censorship is not the answer.

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