According to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s (FIRE) annual college free speech rankings, Harvard University has the terrible distinction of being the worst school for free expression in 2023. On a scale of 100 points, the Ivy League school scored a pitiful 0.00, leaving it a full 11 points behind the next lowest-ranked school.
FIRE’s evaluation took into account a number of variables, such as how strongly a school supports free speech, how many instructors, students, and campus speakers experienced consequences for their remarks, and how students feel about free speech. Harvard’s rating was further damaged by the fact that nine of its researchers and professors were called for discipline or even fired because of their expressed opinions; seven of them had even received professional discipline.
In spite of the low score, more than a hundred Harvard professors recognized the continued obstacles to free speech and earlier this year established the Council on Academic Freedom to support open inquiry on campus.
Rounding out the list of the top five schools for free speech were Fordham University, Georgetown University, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of South Carolina. Michigan Technological University, on the other hand, received 78.01 out of a possible 100 points, making it the best university for free expression in 2023.
According to FIRE’s study of 55,000 current students at 254 colleges, 27% of students think that using violence to silence dissent on campus is appropriate in some situations, and 56% of students fear that their classes will be canceled as a result of anything they have said.
Sean Stevens, the foundation’s director of polling, voiced concerns about the condition of free speech on campuses, saying it seems to be at best stagnant and maybe even worse than the year before. The rankings serve as a timely reminder of the continued difficulties facing free speech in higher education.