Norms about speech seem to be changing rapidly on many college campuses. Universities are offering or requiring training in recognizing “microaggressions,” and they are creating “bias response teams” to make it easy for students to report professors and fellow students who commit microaggressions. In response, many students and professors say they now feel like they are “walking on eggshells”, not just in the classroom but in informal interactions as well.
But how do we know that these changes are real? Might the stories just be a collection of anecdotes from a few disgruntled people who are over-reacting to being censured for a rude remark? Where is the data showing that students are afraid to speak their minds?
We know of no good survey to measure this phenomenon, so a group* of social scientists at Heterodox Academy created one – the Fearless Speech Index. This post explains the first draft of the survey and reports preliminary results obtained from an internet sample.