76% of Princeton Students Say It’s Okay to Shout Down a Speaker
A new survey found that over three-quarters of Princeton University students think that “shouting down a speaker to prevent them from speaking on campus” is acceptable. The findings reflect a broad pattern of speakers on college campuses across the country having their speeches cut short and even physically threatened.
The survey also found that 43% of students, to varying degrees, thought it was acceptable to block “other students from attending a campus speech.” An additional 16% said that it could be acceptable to use “violence to stop a campus speech. Forty-eight percent of students also said they supported banning “offensive” speech.
The findings are similar to a 2021 study that surveyed over 37,000 students at 159 top-ranked U.S. colleges, which found 66% agreeing that shouting down a speaker was acceptable.
Shouting down and even physically assaulting speakers who hold politically disfavored positions has become a favorite tactic of left-wing activists and students on college campuses across the country since at least the 2016-2017 school year, when Milo Yiannopoulos (Berkeley), Charles Murray (Middlebury), Heather Mac Donald (UCLA and Claremont), Ann Coulter (Berkeley), Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Georgetown), Ben Shapiro (University of Wisconsin, Madison), Gavin McInnes (NYU), Israel’s U.N. ambassador Danny Danon (Columbia University), Rabbi Daniel Lapin (Cañada Community College), and others had their respective events disrupted in various fashions.
The pattern has continued unabated ever since, but in recent months, the practice has seen a notable uptick. On March 9, U.S. Circuit Judge Kyle Duncan’s planned speech at a Federalist Society event at Stanford Law School was disrupted and shouted down by dozens of transgender activists, university staff, and students who objected to his past legal work on religious freedom cases.
A few weeks later on April 4, writer and podcast host Ian Haworth’s planned appearance at a Turning Point USA event at the University of Albany — in which he planned to discuss violations of free speech on college campuses — was disrupted by students chanting “F*** you, TPUSA!” and “Ian sucks!” Police were eventually forced to escort TPUSA members to another room, where an abbreviated event was held.
Just two days later, former University of Kentucky swimmer and women’s sports advocate Riley Gaines’s speech at San Francisco State University was disrupted less than halfway through by shouting from transgender activists. The situation deteriorated to the point where police officers were forced to rush Gaines down a hallway, in which she was chased by enraged activists shouting, “Go the f*** home!” and was hit by one of them. She spent the next three hours barricaded in a room until the crowd dispersed.
Meg Kilgannon, senior fellow for Education Studies at Family Research Council, expressed concern about how anti-free speech student behavior could affect future careers and the influence of government and social media censorship.
“I would say this is widespread among colleges, and it is especially concerning that an elite college like Princeton would allow views like these to go unchallenged,” she told The Washington Stand. “That said, 76% of students thinking it’s okay doesn’t mean those students would actually participate, but it does mean that the ones who DO shout down speakers won’t face immediate social consequences for anti-social behavior. If Princeton grads are going to move on in life to elite and high-powered careers, I don’t want to wonder which Princeton grad was the shouter and which one is the enabler.”
“Shouting down speakers on college campuses is becoming a real-life enactment of online cancel culture,” she went on to observe. “Groups like SPLC have been modeling this behavior for at least a decade with their so-called ‘Hate Map.’ The U.S. government has even tried a version of this with the DHS ‘misinformation board’ in the early days of the Biden administration. Social media platforms very famously shut down any comments on election integrity, vaccine mandates or safety, COVID origins, etc. Is it any wonder that college students would take these examples to a new level?”
Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University, emphasized the importance of fostering viewpoint diversity on college campuses in a series of tweets following the Stanford Law School incident in March.
“The shameful incident at Stanford Law School happened because SLS, like so many other academic institutions, has become an ideological echo chamber,” he wrote. “Such incidents can be prevented, but only by enhancing viewpoint diversity, especially among faculty and administrators.”
George continued, “The core of the problem is that Woke students, being constantly confirmed in their beliefs and not having them regularly challenged, come to suppose that they are self-evidently true to any reasonable and decent person, and that anyone who doesn’t share them must be a bigot.”
“None of this has to be,” he concluded. “If students regularly encountered and engaged not only fellow students but also faculty representing a range of beliefs, including perspectives that strongly challenged their own, no one would be shocked to hear dissent. Learning would happen.”
Dan Hart is senior editor at The Washington Stand.