Prominent Harvard University alumni on Monday denounced a pro-Palestinian statement from students that blamed Israel for violence engulfing the region and urged the university to take action against the signatories.
The Islamist militant Hamas movement, which controls the Palestinian enclave of Gaza, attacked Israel on Saturday in the worst breach of the country's defenses since Arab armies waged war in 1973. Israel has responded with air strikes on Gaza.
Harvard President Claudine Gay addressed the recent pro-Hamas rallies and suppport:
“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.”
But Fire, who ranks schools for free speech wrote:
Harvard is consistently ranked one of the best universities in the United States. But FIRE frequently finds itself in the odd position of giving this all-star academic school failing grades.
Simply put, Harvard has never performed well in FIRE’s College Free Speech Rankings, finishing below 75% of the schools surveyed in each of the past four years.
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.
From 2019 to this year, Harvard sanctioned four scholars, three of whom it terminated.
In 2020, Harvard revoked conservative student activist Kyle Kashuv’s acceptance over comments he made on social media as a 16-year-old, for which he had since apologized.
In 2022, Harvard disinvited feminist philosopher Devin Buckley from an English department colloquium on campus over her views on gender and trans issues.
In 2019, Harvard was the site of a substantial event disruption when protesters interrupted a joint talk featuring former Harvard President Lawrence S. Bacow and Graduate School of Education Dean Bridget Terry Long by occupying the stage and refusing to leave.
Harvard also performed very poorly on a number of the survey-based components of the College Free Speech Rankings, ranking 193 out of 254 on “Comfort Expressing Ideas,” 183 on “Administrative Support,” and 198 on “Disruptive Conduct.” This is reflected in student survey responses. For instance, 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; and an alarming 30% think using violence to stop a campus speech is at least “rarely” acceptable, an increase from the 26% of Harvard students who felt this way last year.