Historically Black College and University Students’ Views of Free Expression on Campus

Students at historically black colleges and universities more likely to favor limits on press’ right to cover campus protests, express less trust in media, Gallup survey shows

Students who attend historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in the United States are confident that First Amendment rights are secure, but are more likely than other college students to favor limits on First Amendment press freedoms during campus protests, a Gallup report has found.

The report, sponsored by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Newseum Institute, is a follow-up to an April survey of 3,072 U.S. college students (including HBCU students) on their views of First Amendment rights. The new report compares findings from the national sample with responses from 302 full-time students at HBCUs, as well as 357 black students at other colleges.

The report shows that while a large majority (75 percent) of HBCU students view freedom of the press as secure, 56 percent – double the percentage of national college students at 28 percent – believe college students should be able to prevent reporters from covering campus protests. Correspondingly, HBCU students express less trust in the media than the national sample.

This study sought to better understand how U.S. college students interpret their First Amendment rights, and the role that their environments and backgrounds play in shaping their views. Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) will host a student panel discussion today on “Free Speech on HBCU Campuses” to discuss the findings of the report.

“Amid intense debates around free speech on campus, these findings highlight a deeper story behind student perceptions of the First Amendment. They have the potential to help fuel a more informed debate around these important rights and open new avenues for further study,” said Sam Gill, Knight Foundation vice president for learning and impact.