Columbia students react to their college being ranked worst for free speech on campus

Ivy League school tolerant of all voices, but hate speech should be banned, some students say

Columbia University students shared mixed reactions to their college ranking last for free speech on campus, with some expressing confusion while also shunning hate speech.

"I think everyone here is very open-minded, and so I'm not really sure where that's coming from," one student told Fox News.

However, Arianna, a senior at the Ivy League school, said, "Of course people think they can't say things. I think people think they might be judged by the majority."

The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) ranked Columbia last in its third annual College Free Speech Rankings, which surveyed nearly 45,000 students from more than 200 colleges. The Ivy League university scored a 9.91 out of 100.

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Columbia senior, Astrid, told Fox News that "there is definitely a homogenous point of view" on campus, but opposing points of view are not necessarily suppressed.

Columbia senior, Astrid, told Fox News that "there is definitely a homogenous point of view" on campus, but opposing points of view are not necessarily suppressed. (Fox News)

"I am surprised by that result," Astrid, a senior, told Fox News. "I don't think that I've personally experienced or witnessed the suppression of free speech at Columbia."

"I think that there is definitely a homogenous point of view at school, but I don't think that opposing points of view are necessarily suppressed either," she continued.

But Astrid added that "hate speech should definitely at least be monitored" on campus.

Numerous other students Fox News spoke with similarly considered Columbia open-minded and tolerant but said hate speech should not be allowed.

"Hate speech, that's not good to be hearing," one girl said. "But I think everything else, as long as it's like furthering ideas, that's good to talk about."

A freshman, Aarush, told Fox News, "I've heard some people with certain political views might not be able to express their opinions because it might be perceived as offensive."

He also said hate speech is unacceptable, that "obviously you can say whatever you want, like, physically, but there's going to be social repercussions."

"People should just be more careful about what they say," he added.

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Columbia freshman, Aarush, said there could be social repercussions for expressing certain beliefs on campus.

Columbia freshman, Aarush, said there could be social repercussions for expressing certain beliefs on campus. (Fox News)

FIRE — a nonpartisan free speech advocacy group — used seven components in its scoring system, including openness to discussing challenging topics on campus, tolerance for controversial liberal and conservative speakers, and comfort expressing ideas and protest acceptability.

A senior, Sam, told Fox News that political issues are often taboo to discuss on campus, "Especially if you're not leaning left — can't say a word about that."

FIRE researchers found that only 27% of Columbia’s students don't believe it's ever acceptable to shout down a speaker to silence them. They also reported that there are roughly 6.8 liberal students for every conservative student on campus.

"You do have to walk on eggshells a bit because you don't want to offend anybody," Freshman Rosnell told Fox News. "If you do kind of misstep, people aren't really as forgiving as you would like them to be."

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Columbia University was ranked last for free speech on campus in a new survey by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression.

Columbia University was ranked last for free speech on campus in a new survey by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression. (Fox News)

Similarly, Sam said the campus is "very averse to ideas that go against the grain."

"I’ve certainly seen people get trashed online; or in class, they’ll say something, and it will come up after class," he added. "Makes people afraid to speak."

The FIRE study found that 63% of students surveyed reported feeling worry over damaging their reputation based on someone else misunderstanding them, and 22% said they often self-censor.

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Researchers also found that about three out of every five students reported that they would be uncomfortable "publicly disagreeing with a professor about a controversial topic or expressing an unpopular opinion to their peers on a social media accounts tied to their name."

A freshman, Caroline, said, "I think speech should be free, but also there are limitations."

"Speech that is derogatory towards a certain group, I don't think that's OK," she told Fox News. "It's not a progressive conversation."

Gabrielle Reyes contributed to this report.