Harvard University claimed that it supports free speech after several of its student groups voiced opposition to Israel, despite the school's notoriety as one of the most censorship-prone universities in the country.
In the wake of expressions of anti-Israeli sentiment by individual students and groups at the school, Harvard President Claudine Gray issued a statement, in which she declared “Our University embraces a commitment to free expression…that commitment extends even to views that many of us find objectionable, even outrageous.”
However, an examination of Harvard University’s existing record on freedom of expression seems to indicate otherwise.
In its 2023 rankings of America’s colleges and universities by freedom of expression, the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) ranked Harvard dead last out of 254 schools examined. Among the actions which earned Harvard this unique dishonor are nine attempts to deplatform speakers, faculty, and students – seven of which resulted in sanctions. Furthermore, “just over a quarter of Harvard students reported they are comfortable publicly disagreeing with their professor on a controversial political topic; only roughly a third think it is ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ clear the administration protects free speech on campus.”
Beyond its abysmal free speech record, Harvard has made its political bias readily apparent in its choice of commencement speakers over the last decade. Among those chosen to deliver the address include Oprah Winfrey, gun control advocate Michael Bloomberg, Mark Zuckerberg, far-left New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, and Attorney General Merrick Garland. During that time, not a solitary right-leaning celebrity or politician of equivalent stature was featured.
Thus, Harvard says some speech it considers objectionable (such as supporting terrorist attacks against civilians) is allowed, but other speech (like advocating political principles that fall even slightly to the right of center) is not.