‘Abysmal!’ Free speech madness as Harvard rated zero out of 100 in school ranking

Students walk through Harvard University

Students walk through Harvard University

Oliver Trapnell

By Oliver Trapnell

Published: 06/09/2023

- 22:42

Updated: 07/09/2023

- 07:41

The score was branded ‘generous’ as the true value in fact fell well below zero

Harvard University has been ranked the absolute worst school in the US for free speech, new data has shown.

The US’s most prestigious school, with an admission rate of just 3.45 per cent, was given a flat zero out of 100 possible points as an institution.

Data from the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (Fire) released their annual free speech ranking for universities today (Wednesday).

According to the director of the company, Sean Stevens, Harvard consistently places near the bottom of the rankings year after year.

Statue of John Harvard

Statue of John Harvard


This year was no exception, according to Stevens, who stated that Harvard came a full 11 points behind the next worst university.

“I’m not totally surprised,” Stevens told The New York Post.

“We’ve done these rankings for years now, and Harvard is consistently near the bottom.”

Fire went on to dub the state of free speech at the university “abysmal”.


Statue of John Harvard

Statue of John Harvard


The company added that the flat score of zero was in fact “generous” considering that the actual score for the university was calculated to be -10.69.

“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 negative score was calculated to be so low after a spate of professors and researchers were fired or faced discipline due to what they had said or written.

Other metrics used to calculate the figure include the school’s policies in favour of free speech and how many students, professors and campus speakers have been targeted by authorities for their speech.




Fire added that bonuses could be applied to scores should school administrators stand up for the rights of those whose free speech is threatened.

The latest data comes after the US Department of Education opened an investigation into Harvard’s legacy admissions which gives an edge to applicants whose families have ties to alumni.

The investigation will focus on claims that the university “discriminates on the basis of race by using donor and legacy preferences in its undergraduate admissions process” given that children of alumni are predominantly white.

According to the Black and Latino community group in New England, students with legacy ties are 7 times more likely to be admitted with about 70 per cent of those admitted being white.

They added that in some cases a third of each class is comprised of legacy admitted students.

“Qualified and highly deserving applicants of color are harmed as a result, as admissions slots are given instead to the overwhelmingly white applicants who benefit from Harvard’s legacy and donor preferences,” the group said in a statement.

“Even worse, this preferential treatment has nothing to do with an applicant’s merit.

“Instead, it is an unfair and unearned benefit that is conferred solely based on the family that the applicant is born into.”

A spokesman for Harvard responded by saying a review into the admissions policy was underway.

They added: “As this work continues, and moving forward, Harvard remains dedicated to opening doors to opportunity and to redoubling our efforts to encourage students from many different backgrounds to apply for admission.”

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