Wilder School poll explores free speech, discrimination on campus

Illustration by Iain Duffus
Illustration by Iain Duffus

Half of Virginians think universities should protect students from discriminatory rhetoric even if it imposes on the freedom of speech, according to a new poll released by the L. Douglas Wilder School.

The other half of the more than 800 people polled said freedom of expression should be limitless regardless of who it affects.

This comes at a time when universities around the nation are grappling with issues of freedom of expression on their campuses. The Office of Public Policy Outreach in the Wilder School is tasked with spearheading polls that explore relevant topics and national trends.

Robyn McDougle, director of the Office of Public Policy Outreach, said this is the first poll about this topic. She was surprised by the results.

“When you half the population for free speech and the other protecting from discriminatory language it shows that it is a current issue, a public policy issue, but not one that has a clearly defined plan for universities, faculty and administration,” McDougle said.

61 percent of minority respondents and 56 percent of women were in favor of protection from discriminatory language and behavior.

When asked about campus safety and how prepared students felt walking out of college into the workforce nearly 80 percent of respondents said that their schools were safe spaces for them to attend and learn.

“We found that the commonwealth does an outstanding job at protecting students, faculty and administration in our college and universities,” McDougle said.

Students who were entering and leaving college, said they felt well-prepared for the next phases of their lives.

The Office of Public Policy Outreach plans to conduct another poll in December to follow up on the poll in July.


hibaheadshot-1Hiba Ahmad
Hiba is a senior studying broadcast journalism and religious studies. In addition to writing for the CT, she is the campus editor-at-large for the Huffington Post, a reporter for VCU InSight and president of United Muslim Relief at VCU. This summer, Hiba interned with the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Washington, D.C. She previously interned with Voice for America and as a web content intern for VCU’s Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture.
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