Buckley Institute Sends Yale Presidential Search Survey to Search Committee

December 15, 2023

Buckley Institute Founder and Executive Director Lauren Noble ’11 shared the results of the Buckley Institute’s survey of Yale undergraduates on the free speech and the presidential search with the presidential search committee and the Yale Corporation. The survey found that 65% of Yale students want the search committee to prioritize candidates committed to strengthening free speech on campus. A majority (55%) are “not at all” familiar with the Woodward Report, Yale’s free speech policies.

Dear Members of the Presidential Search Committee and Trustees of the Yale Corporation,

The Yale student body is hungering for a campus environment where free speech is paramount.

As demonstrated by the recent outrage over testimony by the presidents of Harvard, University of Pennsylvania, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before Congress, it is abundantly clear that America’s elite universities, Yale included, favor some speech over others.

What many students want, however, is a university campus that protects speech across the political spectrum and encourages viewpoint diversity. Indeed, that is why hundreds of Yale students flock to Buckley Institute events each year.

To assist the committee and the Yale Corporation in their search, the Buckley Institute commissioned a survey of the Yale undergraduate population about the intellectual climate on campus and what they’re looking for in the next Yale president. 65% of Yale students agree that the Yale presidential search committee should prioritize candidates committed to strengthening free speech on campus.

More specifically, 56% believe Yale should take action to promote political diversity among its faculty. 46% want the next president to host and moderate debates on contentious topics to model civil dialogue across the political spectrum.

Despite this thirst for a stronger free speech atmosphere, too few Yalies are aware of their on-campus free speech rights as embodied in the Woodward Report. 55% of Yale undergraduates are “not at all familiar” with the Woodward Report. 71% report hearing not too often (53%) or not at all (18%) from faculty, administrators, or first-year counselors about the value of free speech. The Woodward Report notes that “Education in the value of free expression at Yale is the business of all sectors of the University.” These survey results suggest that education is either not happening or extremely ineffective. The next president of Yale must remedy this failure and all candidates for president must commit to rectifying this worrying lack of familiarity among the student body with their basic free speech rights on campus.

Yale students do not believe that their university actually supports free speech, notwithstanding the Woodward Report’s admirable commitment to “the need for unfettered freedom, the right to think the unthinkable, discuss the unmentionable, and challenge the unchallengeable.” A majority (52%) are not confident Yale would support their right to free speech if something they said was deemed offensive by others.

The Yale student body recommended steps the next president can take to remedy the poor free speech environment. 33% believe Yale should offer courses and other programming throughout the year to educate students on free speech. 31% think Yale’s next president should provide every incoming student with a copy of the Woodward Report.

The presidential search committee has stated on several occasions that it will seriously consider student input throughout the process and has taken steps to indicate that it intends to fulfill that promise. The Buckley Institute survey of Yale’s undergraduate student body can and should be an important part of that effort.

Yale students want free speech. They want to be able to either support the status quo or dissent from it and have equal confidence that their university will stand by their right to do so.

The presidential search committee must commit to selecting only candidates dedicated to making that a reality.


Lauren Noble ’11
Founder and Executive Director