Free speech on College campus

Harvard professor warns that service members enrolled at Ivy League school fear disclosing their military status to woke classmates and faculty members over backlash fears (

Free speech is on the wane in most college campuses. For ideological diversity it is imperative that people on both sides of an argument have an opportunity to present their cases. When students or faculty fear to express their views educational community suffers as whole and what are we teaching the students of tomorrow?


What a poor article. Other than this one statement:

Military veterans enrolled at the Ivy League school 'think it’s better if they don’t tell their classmates or their faculty members before that they are members of the military,’

I can’t find any substance in the article that supports this claim. No examples of military-service students making any particular statements where any particular “backlash” followed, just the claim that these students (as a whole?) feared wrath on social media. I had to make the assumption that these particular military-service students held conservative opinions that they felt would be judged by liberal classmates/faculty if expressed, but no facts were given.

It should be obvious that not all those who serve are conservative just as not all who attend Harvard are liberal despite the skew ascribed to each. We know some Harvard ROTC students who were often in uniform on campus (so hard to hide their affiliation) who would say just the opposite about their experience. From the other side, our son, believing the military skewed conservative, initially felt shy about sharing his views when he entered USMA but found quite the opposite. The military comprises all factions of our society with all its colors, beliefs, and political positions. He found conversation and debate at the academy to be lively, intelligent, respectful, encouraged, and every-sided. And, as an officer, he was taught to thoughtfully consider all sides of a situation as no one is served by agendas, especially in war times. Certainly, our own military prejudice was exposed by his experience.

I would be amazed to find Harvard any less accepting of viewpoints, from military or otherwise, than our son found USMA. But, consider the source. Click bait. :roll_eyes:


I have to agree. I also see issues with false equivalencies:

Ms. Kagan kicked the military off Harvard’s campus and out of its campus recruitment office

Let’s be real. This was not Harvard’s attempt to dampen free speech; this was in response to military policies- specifically DADT. And Harvard was not the only university to do so once DADT was repealed, the military was allowed back on campus, spearheaded by Professor Parker.

Putting aside any possible reporting bias by The Daily Mail or Fox & Friends, I do need to point out that Parker himself has been the subject of controversy at Harvard, and, since he’s still employed, Harvard obviously recognizes his right to speak his mind.


That was my immediate thought–uh, what about ROTC? Still a thing at most of these colleges.


Didn’t read the article but if someone chooses not to disclose their background - that is free speech or in this case - free I choose not to speak.

Not clear why the author chose veterans to illustrate it, but the point of the article is that Harvard received a zero rating from FIRE.


Understood, but there is little to explain why.

Well, I’m sure that will result in thousands refusing to apply to Harvard on principle. That’ll show them. :rofl::rofl::rofl:

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Interesting response. I didn’t say people wouldn’t apply. I said I was confused as to why the author chose veterans to illustrate that Harvard has a zero rating from FIRE. Higher ed institutions having free speech issues and faculty that skews left is hardly breaking news.

It doesn’t need to. The title gets people to click on the article and the general point is that Harvard has a poor rating for free speech. If people want more info they’ll look up Harvard on the FIRE website or they’ll dismiss the article as the posters here are doing.

Agree, it’s click bait.

Good journalism often inspires readers to want to know more. This doesn’t.


The FIRE article is a much better source if you’re looking for a free speech case against Harvard.


FIRE is not an unbiased source


The realty is many colleges are suppressing free speech. This is the basic tenet that our country was founded on. All of us know about transgressions of free speech at Stanford and the UChicago professor who was supposed to speak at MIT, or the book banning a in many states. I think this is not just about Harvard but in general there is steady erosion of free speech across ideologies

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First, FIRE is a completely biased source. It gets them publicity to say Harvard is a zero.

Second, I have dealt with a number of military veterans at Harvard and they were happy to disclose their prior careers. That is anecdotal and I clearly wouldn’t know of folks who suppressed their military past when talking to me.

Third, Harvard and the vast majority of academic institutions are painfully politically correct. There are many things you can’t discuss. And, never make a joke of any kind as there is someone who is sure to be offended or triggered.

Fourth, in addition ot the book bannings (I first typed burnings, but those will probably come) per @GPS at local schools, you have the Hillsdales and now University of Floridas where you can get fired for having and/or teaching from intellectual constructs that are not approved. The consequences are likely worse than the opprobrium from crossing the political correctness boundaries at liberal institutions, but there are many fewer institutions on the Hillsdale/UF end of the spectrum.


My sense is that some liberal arts colleges see themselves as Social Justice Warrior training academies. I wonder if they are even more focused on political correctness than bigger schools with professional schools and a very high proportion of foreign students, where older students, visiting scholars, and students from the Gulf or African might temper the political correctness.


Yeah, I’ve never quite understood FIRE. Their rankings just don’t match up with reality. My kid attends a school ranked in the “Bottom 5” for free speech by FIRE. Yet this school is also rated as one of the top “Best for Veterans” colleges. It has an active Pro-Life club and an active Pro-Choice club. It has an active College Republicans club and an active College Democrats club. My kid has had professors who are Trans and professors who are priests. The only thing I can find is that 6 years ago, the school refused to formally recognize the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) group. Didn’t ban them, didn’t silence them, just wouldn’t give them the small stipend for snacks or whatever that official groups get. This group sued, and the court said they didn’t have a case. So, ok, whatever…


My kids went to two colleges at the opposite ends of the FIRE ratings (UChicago and Harvard). I won’t be able to say if Harvard is the worst in the country for free speech, but I will say there is a world of difference between the two. Back during covid when both kids were at home, we had frequent dinner discussions about the type of speech that was allowed/discouraged/shouted down at each college.

It should be noted that the political climate on both campuses is distinctly liberal. But UChicago’s environment was one of open-mindedness and debate of contrary opinions. In fact, I think UChicago would be a perfect intellectual training ground for both liberal and conservative students with an interest in politics. If someone made a political statement without much thought behind it, they were going to get skewered.

At Harvard, there were numerous instances of students taking a far-left political position, someone pushing back against it, and then a mass of students piling on against the student daring to question the “correct” view. Perhaps these views were amplified because it was all online rather than in-person at the time. Or perhaps the students matured as they got older. Hard to tell.

The problem starts with the top. UChicago’s administration is committed to free speech, and will defend its students and faculty when they make unpopular statements. Harvard’s administration seems to be gutless by comparison.


I believe you when you say that your kids’ experiences at Harvard vs UChicago have been different. And yet I can’t help but think these FIRE lists are bogus. Am I really to believe that my kid’s access to hearing a wide range of opinions is being hampered at his “bottom 5 in the nation” school, and that it would be improved by transferring to Florida State University? I have a hard time trusting any organization that would rank a public university in Florida “top 5 in the nation” for free speech right about now.


It’s worth noting that Harvard has responded to pressure from conservatives as well as progressives.

For example, the Kennedy School put out a statement after conservatives like Mike Pompeo went feral over Chelsea Manning being invited to campus.

I now think that designating Chelsea Manning as a Visiting Fellow was a mistake, for which I accept responsibility. I still think that having her speak in the Forum and talk with students is consistent with our longstanding approach, which puts great emphasis on the value of hearing from a diverse collection of people. But I see more clearly now that many people view a Visiting Fellow title as an honorific, so we should weigh that consideration when offering invitations. In particular, I think we should weigh, for each potential visitor, what members of the Kennedy School community could learn from that person’s visit against the extent to which that person’s conduct fulfills the values of public service to which we aspire. This balance is not always easy to determine, and reasonable people can disagree about where to strike the balance for specific people. Any determination should start with the presumption that more speech is better than less. In retrospect, though, I think my assessment of that balance for Chelsea Manning was wrong. Therefore, we are withdrawing the invitation to her to serve as a Visiting Fellow—and the perceived honor that it implies to some people—while maintaining the invitation for her to spend a day at the Kennedy School and speak in the Forum.

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