Professors beware: Your students are ready to report you. Nearly three-quarters of college students approve of reporting professors who say something offensive, according to a recent survey. This might be the kind of thing you’d expect from progressive students on campus, but a slim majority of conservatives favor a reporting regime as well: “Eighty-one percent of liberal students and 53 percent of conservative ones agree with reporting the professor,” the Hill explains. 

Okay, so maybe a professor says he wishes the Nazis had won WWII. That’s what these students have in mind when they support ratting on their professors, right? Of course not. They really just want to make sure their professors don’t say anything with which they disagree. 

“What I found alarming was students’ willingness to report professors for stating opinions or facts,” John Bitzan, author of the survey, said. “This year’s survey clarified that they aren’t talking about hate speech or harassment.”

Instead, students thought undesirable opinions constituted a reason to report their professors. 

“Thirty-four percent of students say professors can be reported for saying COVID-19 vaccination requirements are ‘an assault on individual freedom,’ and 27 percent believe in reporting a professor if they say ‘biological sex is a scientific fact. There are two sexes, male and female,’” the survey found, according to the Hill. It also found “40 percent of all students believe a professor should be reported if they say ‘there is no evidence of anti-black bias in police shootings.’”

Conservative students opposed the opposite claims: that “not getting the COVID-19 vaccine is irresponsible, there are more than two sexes or the U.S. has a problem with ‘racist police’ who shoot ‘unarmed black men.’”

Bitzan said that an “astounding 65 percent are in favor of reporting professors for stating opinions or facts about affirmative action, police shootings, vaccines, guns, and gender.”

Think what you want about any of the above statements on these topics, but they sound to me (fortunately or unfortunately) like normal opinions to hold within our national discourse. If students are too afraid of even hearing these ideas, how are they supposed to combat them when they pop up in real life? There’s no governmental system for reporting your friends or acquaintances for wrongthink (yet). That’s where cancel culture comes in. 

What these students are really admitting in this survey is that they would be unwilling to confront a professor about a disagreement—preferring instead to go over her head and report her to the higher-ups, possibly to face discipline—and that they support cancel culture, getting people fired from their jobs for one-off comments or other “offenses” that trouble a certain group of people. 

Liberal students who are used to “safe spaces” and even the conservatives who decry them as “snowflakes” are so entrenched in their own ideologies that they’re not willing to engage with people on the other side. Eventually, the breakdown in trust between professors and students will get worse, making this kind of reporting more likely and crowding out the possibility of openness, engagement, and the entire point of higher education: learning.