Harvard, 2023’s Worst School for Free Speech, Claims Commitment to ‘Free Expression’ for Pro-Hamas Students

Claudine Gay of Harvard (Boston Globe / Erin Clark / Getty)
Boston Globe / Erin Clark / Getty

Harvard University, which has been named 2023’s worst school for free speech by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), is now, ironically, stressing its “commitment to free expression” in the wake of more than 30 of its student groups issuing a statement in which they blamed Israel for the Hamas terrorist attack that left more than 1,300 Israelis dead.

“Our university embraces a commitment to free expression. That commitment extends even to views that many of us find objectionable, even outrageous. We do not punish or sanction people for expressing such views,” Harvard President Claudine Gay said in the university’s third public statement on the matter.

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“But that is a far cry from endorsing them,” Gay continued. “It’s in the exercise of our freedom to speak that we reveal our characters and we reveal the character of our institution.”

Ironically, however, Harvard “has never performed well” in the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression’s “College Free Speech Rankings,” finishing below 75 percent of the schools surveyed in the past four years, the organization said in a newsletter last month.

The Foundation for Individual Rights explained:

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. And this year, Harvard completed its downward spiral in dramatic fashion, coming in dead last 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.

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.

While Harvard says it is committed to protecting free speech on paper, the university has “a dismal record of responding to deplatforming attempts — attempts to sanction students, student groups, scholars, and speakers for speech protected under First Amendment standards,” FIRE said.

From 2019 to this year, for example, Harvard sanctioned four scholars, three of whom the school terminated.

In 2020, the Ivy League university revoked conservative student activist Kyle Kashuv’s acceptance over comments he made on social media when he was 16, for which he had since apologized.

Last year, Harvard disinvited feminist philosopher Devin Buckley from an English department colloquium on campus over her views on transgender issues.

But when it comes to its students issuing a pro-terror statement, in which they declared “We hold the Israeli regime entirely responsible for all unfolding violence” in response to the mass murder of Jews by Hamas in Israel — where Jews were also raped, kidnapped, set on fire, and decapitated — Harvard is suddenly lecturing the public about the importance of free expression.

You can follow Alana Mastrangelo on Facebook and Twitter at @ARmastrangelo, and on Instagram.


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