University of Chicago takes home top honors, DePauw University the worst in free speech poll

Nearly 20,000 college students participated in the survey

A newly compiled list of free speech on college campuses found that the University of Chicago is considered the best campus for free speech in America while DePauw University ranks last.

The 2020 report, "What's the Climate for Free Speech on America's College Campuses?" was published Tuesday. The first-of-its-kind, interactive, online tool pulled data from nearly 20,000 students to rank the best and worst schools for free speech and open discourse at 55 U.S. institutions.

The ratings factored in dimensions of free expression on campuses and looked at the ability to discuss challenging topics like race, gender and geopolitical conflicts, as well as polling students on whether they feel held back from openly sharing their views.

The schools are ranked on a scale from 0-100. The University of Chicago received a 64 while Indiana's DePauw came in at 44.

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"A university should be a lively marketplace of ideas - a place where different beliefs and opinions can be discussed, analyzed and challenged with widest possible freedom," Nathan Harden, editor of RealClearEducation, said in a written statement.

"If students don't feel free to speak their minds, or if they aren't exposed to diverse points of view, it greatly diminishes the value of their education."

The top 5 best schools include Kansas State University, Texas A&M, University of California, Los Angeles and Arizona State University. The worst-performing schools include Syracuse University, Dartmouth College, Louisiana State University and the University of Texas. DePauw, LSU and UT had the unfortunate distinction of getting a "red light" rating as schools that "explicitly prioritize other values above free speech."

Seven of the colleges that ranked in the top 10 are state schools with undergraduate enrollments over 15,000. Brown University is the only college in the top 10 that is an Ivy League school. In contrast, seven of the 10 worst-performing colleges are private. The undergraduate enrollment at five of the seven colleges is below 10,000. Three of the bottom 10 are in the Northeast and two are Ivy League universities.

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The survey also revealed that 20% of students polled said using violence to stop an unwanted speech or event is in some cases acceptable. Among Ivy League students, 36% said that it was "sometimes" or "always" acceptable to shout down a speaker they don't like.

Another problem facing students is self-censorship. Seventy-two percent of conservative students say they have kept quiet due to fear of how others would respond.