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Apr 06 2016
by Daja Henry

New Study Shows College Students Have Mixed Feelings on Free Speech

By Daja Henry - Apr 06 2016

In a study done by Gallup, college students show mixed feelings about their First Amendment rights. As of late, there have been numerous protests exercising these rights to speech, press, petition, religion and assembly on college campuses. Some of the most notable uses of these rights were those resulting in the resignation of University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe. 

Though students generally believe their First Amendment rights are secure, there is a small disparity between white males, African Americans and women. White male college students felt the most secure, as they should. 

As a result, some college students are in favor of some restrictions of free speech. With the growth of social media, particularly hate speech on Yik Yak, people have had more access to spit hate to anyone. According to the Chronicle, social media has become so popular because it "allows people to have control of their own story and to express their views." However, 74 percent of students believe it's too easy to hide behind anonymity on social media. Students are generally unopposed to restrictions on their freedom of speech when it is intended to combat hate speech. 

Also, students are not against limiting media access to protests in scenarios when protesters want to be left alone, when they believe a reporter will be biased, and when they want to tell the stories themselves on social media. With all the buzz around the First Amendment, it seems as if students are leaning toward writing their own narratives. This calls into question the future of news media. The study finds that students have a general distrust for the press; 59 percent have little to no trust for the press to report the news fairly and accurately. This is no surprise, as Americans have shown general distrust at an all time high of 60 percent since 2012.

With this in mind, students seem to be walking on eggshells when it comes to free speech. Where will they draw the line? What distinguishes opinions and hate speech? Do they really want free speech?

Lead Image Credit: Flickr via Creative Commons

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Daja Henry - Howard University

Daja Henry is a sophomore Media, Journalism, and Film Communications major at Howard University. She is a writer, lyric connoisseur, and lover of all cultures. You can follow her on Twitter @dajaeh97.

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