Harvard ranked worst US university for free speech
One Harvard student stated that "expressing certain political views is something that is simply not done."
Harvard University has been named America's worst college for free speech, with an "abysmal" attitude toward free expression.
The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) has released its annual rankings of US institutions based on how freely students feel they may express themselves. Harvard, a Massachusetts-based Ivy League college, is at the bottom of the list of 248 schools. Harvard’s score of 0.00 is the lowest possible on FIRE’s scale, though the real figure is “more than six standard deviations below the average”.
The research surveyed over 50,000 undergraduate students throughout the country, and its rating methodology was based on elements such as "comfort expressing ideas," "tolerance for speakers," and "administrative support." Colleges were also graded based on how frequently and harshly they penalized students, scholars, and guest speakers.
Harvard students were quoted expressing "hesitation to share controversial opinions for fear that people would jump on me”, in addition to a “general feeling that expressing certain political views is something that is simply not done”.
Since 2019, FIRE documented nine deplatforming initiatives at Harvard, including feminist philosopher Devin Buckley, who was denied admission to a college last year due to her perceived views on transgender people.
The former director of Human Rights Watch (HRW), Kenneth Roth, revealed in an interview with Al Mayadeen in January how he was refused a fellowship in human rights at Harvard University because of his criticism of "Israel."
Roth further revealed to Al Mayadeen that what happened to him was not a first, as there had been several instances where an academic who criticized "Israel" was punished. Roth warned that the danger lies in the fact that new academics may see what transpired and may become afraid of directing any criticism towards "Israel" for fear of punishment.
The Ivy League college was chosen as the second-best university in the world and best in North America by the Times Higher Education this year.
Since its inception in 2003, the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) has placed Harvard as the top worldwide university every year. The renowned Ivy League group of eight colleges has routinely underperformed on the FIRE scale, with Columbia University holding the table last year. This year, Brown University was the best performing of the eight Ivies, ranking 69th, with Princeton ranking 187th.
Harvard's stance on free expression has worsened in recent years, with the university's FIRE score falling from 55.5 in 2021-22 to 34.5 last year and now to the lowest possible count. Nonetheless, there are internal attempts ongoing to address the company's intolerant culture. Over 100 academic members joined Harvard's Council for Academic Freedom in April, chaired by cognitive scientist and author Steven Pinker. The organization has committed to preserving open debate on campus and to helping colleagues who have been attacked for their intellectual work.
In their mission statement, the council proclaimed that " In some institutions, the threat to academic freedom is from an illiberal left that wants to shrink the boundaries of acceptable discussion. At others, it is from right-wing politicians who want a single version of history taught as orthodoxy […] When activists are shouting into an administrator’s ear, we will speak calmly but vigorously into the other one, which will require them to take the reasoned rather than the easy way out. "