Students react to WSU’s free speech ranking

Students say they feel comfortable exercising free speech on campus



Students walk across Glenn Terrell Mall, where different campus groups often table or hold demonstrations.

ABBY SONNICHSEN, Evergreen Photographer

WSU ranked No. 74 in a recent free speech survey of 159 higher education institutions.

RealClearEducation, an organization advocating for free speech on college campuses, surveyed roughly 37,000 students nationwide and asked 29 questions to help determine the rankings, according to the RealClearEducation website. Schools with the most open environments for free speech are ranked at the top of the list, while schools with the least open environments are ranked at the bottom.

Hylan Hall, junior social sciences major and WSU baseball player, said WSU is more open than the school he transferred from. 

“It’s just about people respecting people,” Hall said. “[Respect] other people’s opinions, and it’ll be okay.” 

Forty-five percent of WSU students said it is never acceptable to shut down a speaker on campus, according to the survey. In a free speech controversy, 75 percent of surveyed students believe university administration will defend a speaker’s rights. 

The website does not state how many WSU students were surveyed.

Catherine Cibotti, sophomore speech and hearing major, said she thinks campus provides a healthy and safe environment that allows students to debate controversial topics. 

“I have seen people go and try to shut [speakers] down, but I’ve never seen it get violent,” Cibotti said. “I’ve seen it more as a debate-style, which I feel like it should be. I think that is good.” 

Hall said he thinks the university would defend students’ rights when they speak publicly on campus. 

“As long as people are genuine people and good-hearted, it doesn’t really matter about all the extra rankings,” he said. “It should be letting people have their own opinions and respecting it. The world would be a good place.”