Harvard’s First Amendment hiatus

By Bonnie PritchettHarvard’s First

(WNS)–In a 2005 speech, Harvard University President Lawrence Summers asked: Does research indicate boys are intrinsically more adept at math and science studies than girls?

That question cost Summers his job. And in 2007, Drew Faust replaced him as Harvard’s first female president—a role she announced June 14 she would be leaving next June. But unless speech and association codes implemented under her tenure are rescinded, Faust’s critics said she will leave the school as free from First Amendment liberties as she found it.

Lauded for righting a financially sinking ship and creating a more “diverse” campus, Faust continued to suppress First Amendment freedoms throughout her tenure, wrote critics from Freedom for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).

During Faust’s tenure, FIRE repeatedly ranked Harvard as one of the “worst schools for free speech.”

In her May commencement speech, Faust championed free speech for all, giving her critics a spark of hope. But, days later, the president rescinded admission offers for 10 students who shared offensive jokes on a private social media feed.

Among a list of violations, FIRE cited Faust’s most egregious: The creation of a “blacklist policy” which, beginning this fall, will place sanctions on members of any independent single-sex sororities, fraternities, and social clubs. The organizations have no school affiliation but their members will be barred from seeking leadership positions on campus and post-graduate programs like the Rhodes Scholarship.

“The sanctions would effectively end freedom of association at Harvard,” wrote FIRE’s Robert Shibley and Ryne Weiss. “It is FIRE’s hope that the blacklist policy will be abandoned before President Faust’s departure. If not, we hope that President Faust’s successor will commit to ending the illiberal sanctions.”


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