‘Abysmal’: Harvard Scores Below Zero In Annual Freedom Of Speech Ranking

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Harvard University was ranked the worst school in the country for free speech in an annual rankings report released Wednesday, with the report grading the school’s speech climate as “abysmal.”

The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) – formerly the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education – has ranked Harvard University dead last in its list of 248 schools with a score of 0. This placed Harvard 11 points behind the 247th place University Of Pennsylvania. FIRE researchers said the zero was “generous,” given that Harvard’s actual score was a -10.69, the New York Post reported.

“I thought it would be pretty much impossible for a school to fall below zero, but they’ve had so many scholar sanctions,” Sean Stevens, director of polling and analytics at FIRE, told the outlet.

In the past year, nine professors and researchers at Harvard were faced with calls for them to be punished or fired because of things they had said or written, with seven of the nine actually being professionally disciplined, the outlet stated.

In April, 100 Harvard professors banded together to take a stand for free speech by joining the Council on Academic Freedom after seeing such disciplinary action taken against scholars and writers.

“We are in a crisis time right now,” Harvard Law School professor and feminist legal theory scholar Janet Halley told the New York Post at the time. “Many, many people are being threatened with — and actually put through — disciplinary processes for their exercise of free speech and academic freedom.” (RELATED: College Students Disrupt ‘Free Speech’ Event With Chants, Stolen Pizza And A Conga Line)

“Many people think that they’re entitled not to be offended [on campus], and they are willing to complain. It’s very difficult for institutions to stop the disciplinary wheels from churning,” Halley continued.

The data compiled by FIRE was derived from 750,000 current undergraduate students and recent alumni from two- and four-year colleges throughout the U.S. The free speech rankings were based on a scoring system of 13 components, six of which relied on student perceptions of the free speech climate on their respective campuses. The remaining seven components analyzed the behavior by administrators, faculty and students in relation to freedom of expression.

Among the perceptions explored by FIRE to calculate their rankings were students’ comfort in expressing ideas; tolerance for liberal and conservative speakers at campus events; whether disruptive conduct (like shouting down controversial speakers) was tolerated; and whether controversial subjects such as abortion and gun control could be discussed openly.