Harvard University is officially 2023’s worst school for free speech.
The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) released its annual college free speech rankings on Wednesday, which dubbed the state of free speech at the Ivy League school “abysmal.”
“I’m not totally surprised,” Sean Stevens, director of polling and analytics at FIRE, told The Post. “We’ve done these rankings for years now, and Harvard is consistently near the bottom.”
Despite being the most acclaimed academic institution in the country, Harvard received a 0.00-point free speech ranking on a 100-point scale — a full 11 points behind the next-worst school.
FIRE says the dismal score was “generous,” considering Harvard’s actual score was a -10.69, according to its calculations.
Harvard’s score was dragged down by the fact that nine professors and researchers there faced calls to be punished or fired based on what they had said or written — and seven of the nine were actually professionally disciplined.
“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 score is calculated based on factors including how strong the school’s policies in favor of free speech are and how many professors, students and campus speakers have been targeted by authorities for their speech.
Bonuses are applied if the school’s administrators stand up for the rights of those whose free speech was threatened.
The rankings also take into account student sentiment about free speech based on polling FIRE conducted in partnership with research firm College Pulse.
Harvard’s lowest rank comes despite the fact that more than 100 of its professors banded together earlier this year 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.”
Second-worst on the list was the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, followed by the University of South Carolina in Columbia, Georgetown University in DC, and Fordham University in the Bronx and Manhattan.
Although Columbia University took the prize of worst school for free speech last year, it ranked 214th out of 248 this time around.
The number one school for free speech was Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Michigan. The school earned 78.01 out of 100 possible points.
“I’m not necessarily surprised that a technological school has a better speech climate, primarily for the reason that they don’t really talk as much about controversial topics,” Stevens said. “They’re there to make things work as engineers.”
Auburn University, the University of New Hampshire, Oregon State University and Florida State University rounded out the top five.
FIRE’s survey of 55,000 current students from 254 universities also yielded some staggering results.
Fifty-six percent of students worry about getting canceled for something they said, and 27% said it’s acceptable to use violence to stop campus speech in some circumstances.
As FIRE continues to be inundated with allegations of free speech violations, Stevens says the erosion of campus discourse should concern everyone.
“I’d say the state of free speech on campus is stagnant at best, and possibly a little worse than last year.”
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