Harvard University ranks worst in freedom of speech and expression amongst 248 institutions

Harvard University ranks worst in freedom of speech and expression amongst 248 institutions


On Wednesday, 6th September 2023, Harvard University is now ranked the worst school for free speech in 2023. The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) unveiled its annual college free speech rankings, describing the state of free speech at the Ivy League institution as “abysmal.”

Despite its esteemed reputation as an academic institution, Harvard University received a free speech ranking of 0.00 on a 100-point scale, lagging a full 11 points behind the next-lowest-ranking school. FIRE noted that this dismal score was even “generous,” as Harvard’s actual calculated score was a staggering -10.69.

Image source: FIRE

Describing the ever-degrading performance of Harvard University, FIRE said, “In 2020, Harvard ranked 46 out of 55 schools. In 2021, it ranked 130 out of 154 schools. Last year, it ranked 170 out of 203 schools. This year, Harvard completed its downward spiral in dramatic fashion, coming in dead last out of 254 schools with the worst score ever: 0.00 out of a possible 100.00. This earns it the notorious distinction of being the only school ranked this year with an ‘Abysmal’ speech climate.”

It added, “What’s more, granting Harvard a score of 0.00 is generous. Its actual score is -10.69, more than six standard deviations below the average and more than two standard deviations below the second-to-last school in the rankings, its Ivy League counterpart, the University of Pennsylvania.”

The scoring process takes into account various factors, such as the strength of the institution‘s free speech policies, the number of incidents involving professors, students, and guest speakers facing repercussions for their expressions, and any proactive actions by the university’s administrators to defend the free speech rights of individuals under threat.

Harvard’s score suffered due to the fact that nine professors and researchers at the institution encountered demands for punitive measures or dismissals stemming from their verbal or written expressions. Notably, seven out of these nine individuals were indeed subjected to professional disciplinary actions.

Sean Stevens, director of polling and analytics at FIRE said, “I’m not totally surprised. We’ve done these rankings for years now, and Harvard University is consistently near the bottom. I thought it would be pretty much impossible for a school to fall below zero, but they’ve had so many scholar sanctions”

The rankings additionally consider student opinions on free speech, as determined by polling conducted by FIRE in collaboration with the research firm College Pulse. Even though over 100 Harvard University professors united to establish a Council on Academic Freedom in support of open discourse on campus earlier this year, the institution still received its lowest ranking.

Following Harvard University, the second-worst institution on the list was the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, with the University of South Carolina in Columbia, Georgetown University in DC, and Fordham University in the Bronx and Manhattan also ranked poorly in terms of freedom of speech.

Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Michigan, secured the top spot as the number one institution for free speech, achieving a score of 78.01 out of a possible 100 points. Auburn University, the University of New Hampshire, Oregon State University, and Florida State University comprised the remaining four institutions in the top five for free speech.

For years, Harvard University enjoyed an esteemed reputation in India, particularly among left-leaning and liberal circles. Harvard-educated professors, economists, and intellectuals were highly respected, often assuming prominent roles in government, administration, and institutions like the Reserve Bank of India. This admiration stemmed from an era when the university’s intellectual clout was embraced by those who subsequently championed an agenda of growing intolerance against the Narendra Modi government in 2015.

However, Harvard’s recent ranking as the worst school for free speech has laid bare a stark contradiction. The institution’s suppression of diverse viewpoints has exposed the hypocrisy of Indian leftists and liberals who once revered it. This revelation marks a turning point, underscoring the need for a more inclusive and open discourse in both academic and societal realms.


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