Free Speech Survey Results
As part of its efforts to strengthen free speech protections on campus, the Board of Regents approved a series of free speech-related recommendations last February. One of those recommendations included a free speech survey for faculty, staff and students to be administered every two years.
The first Board of Regents Free Speech Survey was conducted November 9, 2021 through December 1, 2021. Results will be presented to the Board at the February meeting.
More than 7,000 students responded, representing just over 10.2 percent of the total student body. A total of 10,648 Regents employees responded to the survey, representing more than 38 percent of the total workforce.
The survey asked how comfortable students and employees felt expressing their opinions in different settings. Students frequently felt comfortable expressing their opinions in classes (78 percent said they were comfortable doing so), though felt less comfortable sharing those opinions on social media (60 percent agreed they were comfortable).
Much like students, employees were least likely to express comfort sharing opinions on social media (44 percent). Equal numbers (64 percent) expressed comfort sharing opinions both off campus and at work.
The survey also asked students and employees about the university environment as a whole. Seventy-three percent of student respondents strongly or somewhat agreed that their university provides an environment that supports free speech, while 69 percent of employees answered that way.
More student respondents believe their universities allow them to say the things they believe even when it is offensive to some (56 percent) than do employee respondents (49 percent). Additionally, 61 percent of student respondents and 56 percent of employee respondents believe their university allows other people to say things they believe even when it may be seen as offensive.
The 2021 survey will serve as a baseline for future efforts to assess free speech at Iowa’s public universities.