Most Iowa students feel free to share their opinions in class

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A freedom of expression survey conducted by public universities in Iowa shows that students feel more comfortable expressing their opinions in classrooms – and that comfort decreases the further they are from campus.

Why is this important: Protecting free speech on college campuses has become a conservative rallying point in recent years, but the survey indicates that for the most part, students at Iowa, ISU and UNI think that they can share their thoughts in class.

State of play: The email survey, which was commissioned by the Iowa Board of Regents, was conducted in late 2021.

  • About 10% participated and the majority of students, 78%, agreed that they could voice their opinions in lectures.
  • This number decreased the greater the distance from classrooms: 74% said it on campus, 68% off campus, and 60% on social media.

To note : Iowa students felt more comfortable sharing their thoughts in class compared to a national survey by the Knight Foundation/Ipsos – although the question was worded differently.

Between the lines: The survey is part of the Iowa board greater effort to protect free speech after Republican lawmakers accused colleges of “cancelling culture” last year, following incidents at every university where conservative students said they felt restricted.

  • Republican lawmakers gave no additional funding to colleges last session — a move Democrats have accused of politics.
A free speech survey by the BOR
A graph showing the percentage of students who felt comfortable expressing their opinions in different environments. Map courtesy of Iowa BOR

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