Free Speech and Harvard

Sean Stevens

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.

What’s more, granting Harvard a score of 0.00 is generous. Its actual score is -10.69, more than six standard deviations below the average and more than two standard deviations below the second-to-last school in the rankings, its Ivy League counterpart, the University of Pennsylvania. (Penn obtained an overall score of 11.13.) 

This raises the question: Why did Harvard do so poorly? In light of its historically low ranking, the reasons are many.