More than half of college students in the United States say they are reluctant to share their views about politics, race, religion and other controversial topics with peers and professors in the classroom, according to a campus climate survey of 1,580 students released Tuesday by Heterodox Academy, an organization that promotes free inquiry and viewpoint diversity in higher education.
The Campus Expression Survey found that over all, students showed the highest amount of reluctance to share their opinions about politics compared to other topics. Responses broken down by demographic revealed white students were more reluctant than students of color to share their views on race, and Republican students were more reluctant than their Democratic or Independent-identifying peers to speak about politics in the classroom.
Fifty-five percent of students agreed their campus climate “prevents people from saying things they believe because others might find them offensive.” The large number of students who are not comfortable sharing their views in the classroom is “dangerous,” the survey report concludes. The results mean many students are not learning how to craft opinions and do not hear ideas different from their own while attending college, the report said.
“At a broader societal level, these findings suggest that nuances within important topics are not being examined by the nation’s future leaders,” the report said. “Democracy is not a way to reach national agreement; it is a way of living together despite our disagreements. College classrooms can and should be advanced training rooms for democracy, especially in our time of rising political polarization.”