The University of Wisconsin System Administration is asking undergraduate students to take the Student Perceptions of Campus Free Speech Survey. The survey aims to measure and analyze undergraduate students’ perception of free speech and freedom of expression on University of Wisconsin campuses.

The topic of campus free speech has become a highly debated and often polarizing topic around the country, prompting some to call for policy changes or legislative action. While national studies focusing on this issue exist, there is a lack of specific data from the state or the University of Wisconsin.

Designed to address a lack of information, this survey gives students an opportunity to share their perspective and perception of free speech on UW Campuses.

 

  • Students will be emailed a link to the survey by their campus administration

  • Survey is open from April 7 to May 6, 2022

  • Open to currently enrolled undergraduate students at University of Wisconsin campuses

  • All responses are anonymous and will not be attached to your name

The goal of the project is to provide previously unavailable, highly relevant information that we hope will better inform discussions about potential changes to policy or law.

Timothy Shiell
Director of the Menard Center for the Study of Institutions and Innovation

The Student Perceptions of Campus Free Speech Survey is funded by UW-Stout’s Menard Center for the Study of Institutions and Innovation and is being conducted by The Wisconsin Institute for Public Policy and Service, a unit of the University of Wisconsin System.

The survey will attempt to answer the following questions:

  • What do students know about First Amendment free speech rights?
  • How much do they value these rights?
  • How much do students value viewpoint diversity?
  • Do they perceive problems in viewpoint diversity at their campus?
  • Do students self-censor? If so, why do they self-censor?
  • Have students witnessed or experienced formal sanctions or punishment for constitutionally protected expression?
  • To what extent do student perceptions vary with demographic factors such as their political party affiliation, gender, and race/ethnicity?

A research team of free speech experts and survey design experts will compose the survey items, which also will be vetted by other state and national experts. A bi-partisan Advisory Board will review the survey and survey final report prior to their releases and assist in promoting survey participation.

For questions or more information, please contact Tim Shiell: shiellt@uwstout.edu.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is the survey being done? 
The survey builds on the UW System’s existing commitment to free speech and freedom of expression, as evidenced by Regent Policy Document 4-21, which includes a requirement that the “UW System shall report annually to the Board of Regents regarding the efforts of its institutions to uphold the principles expressed in this policy and to fulfill the Board’s Commitment to Academic Freedom and Freedom of Expression.”

The topic of campus free speech has become a highly debated and often polarizing topic around the country, prompting some to call for policy changes or legislative action. While national studies focusing on this issue exist, there is a lack of specific data from the state or the University of Wisconsin.

Designed to address a lack of information, this survey gives students an opportunity to share their perspective and perception of free speech on UW Campuses.

Who is doing the survey?
The survey is from the University of Wisconsin System. It is being funded by the non-partisan Menard Center for the Study of Institutions and Innovation (MCSII) and conducted by the non-partisan Wisconsin Institute for Public Policy and Service (WIPPS), a unit of the University of Wisconsin System.

What is the survey trying to find out?
This survey attempts to answer the following questions:

  • What do students know about First Amendment free speech rights?
  • How much do they value these rights?
  • How much do students value viewpoint diversity?
  • Do they perceive problems in viewpoint diversity at their campus?
  • Do students self-censor? If so, why do they self-censor?
  • Have students witnessed or experienced formal sanctions or punishment for constitutionally protected expression?
  • To what extent do student perceptions vary with demographic factors such as their political party affiliation, gender, and race/ethnicity?

Is this an academically sound survey?
This is a state-of-the-art survey designed by a research team including survey design experts and free speech content experts.  It will cover both questions asked in previous campus free speech surveys and break new ground with questions exploring new aspects of the issues.  The survey questions were revised multiple times based on feedback from individual students and student groups as well as a bi-partisan advisory board.  The data and final report vetted by the advisory board and reviewed by the UW System Office of Policy Analysis and Research and the UW-Madison Survey Center prior to public release.

Why should student take the time to participate?
This is their chance to provide feedback on an issue of state, national, and even international significance. The survey is essentially a form of program assessment, a kind of customer satisfaction survey, attempting to discover if students are getting the education they deserve and pay for. Surveys provide only a snapshot, but a snapshot is crucial so that university administrators, faculty, policy makers, and legislators have a better picture of what the true situation is.

What will be done with the survey results?
The final WIPPS-MCSII report will include only aggregate results, that is, System wide, results, not results for individual campuses.  Moreover, the final report will not include any recommendations.  The goal is not to push any particular agenda, but rather to provide previously unavailable information that is important to public debates about campus free speech, policy decisionmakers, and legislative actors.