A free speech survey will soon be headed to all UW System students.
This comes after the survey was shelved last spring after the survey garnered controversy over how the survey would be worded. Former UW Whitewater interim chancellor Jim Henderson resigned over his objection to the survey.
In an interview with WKOW last week, System President Jay Rothman said that the survey will be going forward this fall, but has not given an exact date for when it will be released to students.
The survey is funded by UW Stout’s Menard Center for the Study of Institutions and Innovation, a Charles Koch Foundation-funded group focused on promoting the study and discussion of civil liberties and related institutions.
The survey itself is set to be administered by the Wisconsin Institute for Public Policy and Service, which is also an extension of the UW system.
Proponents of the survey say that the survey will help gather honest opinions on free speech on campus, and that the university will then be able to use that information to create improvements to the university as a whole.
But back in April, detractors criticized the project, saying it had political motivations – mainly, that the questions were phrased to suggest targeting of students by liberal professors.
MGR Govindarajan is the Legislative Affairs Committee Chair with ASM, the student government body of UW Madison. He tells WORT that, while the current ASM has not taken an official stance on the survey this semester, they are still concerned with how the survey will be handled.
He said that the questions the survey released last year can be misleading, and are written in a way where a desired answer is obvious. This includes questions such as quote “How often have you felt pressured by a professor to agree with a specific political or ideological opinion being expressed in class,” end quote.
Govindarajan went on to say that neither the Menard Center nor the Wisconsin Institute for Public Policy have reached out to ASM, despite ASM asking to talk with them about the poll several times.
But Ali Waite, a student at UW Stevens Point and member of the university’s student government association, says that she has been in contact with the authors of the poll. She said that, while she still has some concerns about the free speech survey, the authors have been willing to change questions, and have been responsive to their concerns.
Waite tells WORT that the Stevens Point Student Government Association is taking the survey seriously, and won’t be sending out a survey until they have reviewed it beforehand.
Photo courtesy: Free Speech Survey / Wisconsin Institute for Public Policy