Brooke Erickson

Exploration of Variables Associated with Reluctance to Speak in College Classrooms

Controversial topics are important parts of discussion in many college classrooms, and due to the nature of these topics, students may feel reluctant to speak freely about them in an academic setting. Today, students feel polarized as a reflection of the world outside college campuses. This study aims to explore whether UMR students follow the national trend of being reluctant to speak about controversial topics and, if so, what factors may influence their reluctance. The Campus Expression Survey is a nationally distributed survey that asks students if they are reluctant to speak about five controversial topics. The sample consists of 233 UMR undergraduate students. We hypothesize that students who are reluctant to speak about controversial topics are more concerned that peers will criticize their views as offensive than they are that their professors will criticize them. A McNemar’s Chi-Square test was used to analyze the results of the survey to determine if students were more concerned about criticisms from their peers or criticisms from their professors. The results indicate that students were more concerned about their peers than about their professors. This may be due to the likelihood that peers influence behavior more than professors and how social media affects in-person behaviors. We also used a t-test to examine whether the amount of topics students are reluctant to speak about affects their GPA, and found that the average GPA of students who are reluctant about a moderate number of topics is higher than those reluctant about an extreme number.