Academia /

Harvard University Ranked Nation's Worst School for Free Speech

The university scored a zero out of possible 100 rating

The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) has ranked Harvard University as the worst school in the nation when it comes to free speech.

The university scored zero points out of 100 in the organization’s free speech rankings — 11 points behind the University Of Pennsylvania, the second-to-last school.

FIRE said that the zero was them being generous because Harvard actually scored -10.69.

School scores are calculated based on a range of factors, including their policies regarding free speech, how many students and staff have been targeted by officials over speech, and a poll of student sentiment. Bonus points are awarded to schools that defend free speech.

“I’m not totally surprised,” Sean Stevens, director of polling and analytics at FIRE, told The New York Post. “We’ve done these rankings for years now, and Harvard is consistently near the bottom.”

Harvard took a massive hit due to the number of professors punished or fired over speech.

“I thought it would be pretty much impossible for a school to fall below zero, but they’ve had so many scholar sanctions,” Stevens said.

The ranking included comments from students, one of whom told FIRE, “Despite having friends and a strong social support network on campus, I felt very alone. I am a moderate Republican, and even opinions I possess that are moderate or even left leaning on the national scale seem relatively unaccepted among the student body. It is an incredibly difficult and isolating political landscape to navigate for someone who is not left wing.”

A student from the class of 2025 said, “My meritocracy class where any objection to affirmative action was off-limits unofficially in section (I’m pro, but it is a very controversial topic and should be questioned like all other policies).”

According to the Post report, the state of free speech on Harvard’s campus has been so bad that over 100 professors have banded together to form a Council on Academic Freedom to defend open inquiry on campus.

“We are in a crisis time right now,” Janet Halley, a Harvard Law School professor and member of the Council, told The Post in April. “Many, many people are being threatened with — and actually put through — disciplinary processes for their exercise of free speech and academic freedom.”

Michigan Technological University, Auburn University, the University of New Hampshire, Oregon State University, and Florida State University were the top five schools for free speech in 2023, according to FIRE.

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