Poll finds over a third of MIT students support using violence to stop unpopular speech

February 7, 2023

First established in 1861, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has long been one of America's most prestigious universities.

However, the school also appears to be a horror show when it comes to free speech, with one poll suggesting that over one in three students support using violence to silence unpopular views.

MIT students more censorious than average

That survey was carried out by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), and it found MIT students to be more censorious than their peers at other universities.

Whereas 62% of college students nationwide believe it is acceptable to shout down presentations or otherwise prevent them from going ahead, the number rose to 77% on MIT's campus.

While an average of 37% of students think it is acceptable to physically block others from attending an event, 52% of MIT attendees say the same.

Perhaps the most disturbing revelation was that 35% of students at the elite institution say using violence to silence a speaker is acceptable. That figure is a full 15 points higher than the national average.

"I never feel like I can express my views"

Those numbers aren't lost on students with minority views, some of whom spoke with FIRE about the challenges they face.

"I never feel like I can express my views around my classmates, even a lot of my close friends," one respondent told the organization.

"They frequently talk about how evil all conservatives are and even talk about how they’d wish they'd all just die," the individual went on to explain.

Dissenting students are not alone in feeling like they are being targeted at MIT, as such concerns are also shared by faculty members as well.

Faculty more likely to self-censor now than in 2020

Some 25 percent of faculty reported they are "very" or "extremely" likely to self-censor. Further, 40% of professors  indicated that they are "more" or "much more" likely to self-censor now than they were in 2020.

Meanwhile, just 14% of faculty members believe it is "extremely likely" or "very likely" that the institution will stand by them should they make a controversial statement.

Those findings did not go unnoticed by George Washington University Law School professor Jonathan Turley, who addressed them on his blog, writing, "The university leadership is clearly not viewed as a reliable ally in free speech fights."

"It is one thing to mouth free speech values," Turley pointed out. "It is entirely a different thing to stand by a faculty member’s free speech and academic freedom rights when a flash mob forms around a cancel campaign."

" A free people [claim] their rights, as derived from the laws of nature."
Thomas Jefferson
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