Over 100 faculty members from the most prestigious university in America have come together to create a new council in defense of freedom of speech.
According to the New York Post, the newly-formed Council on Academic Freedom will fight to defend free speech in the university, which its members say is currently in “crisis.”
“We are in a crisis time right now,” said Janet Halley, a professor with Harvard Law School who specializes in feminist legal theory. “Many, many people are being threatened with — and actually put through — disciplinary processes for their exercise of free speech and academic freedom.”
The council’s co-founder, psychology professor Steven Pinker, previously wrote an op-ed in the Boston Globe declaring that “eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, and if we don’t defend academic freedom, we should not be surprised when … a disgusted citizenry writes us off.”
Following Pinker’s article, the council’s membership doubled in size over the course of just four days. One such member is Janet Halley, a professor who has been with Harvard since 2000.
“Many people think that they’re entitled not to be offended [on campus], and they are willing to complain,” said Halley. “It’s very difficult for institutions to stop the disciplinary wheels from churning. An organization at Harvard, sponsored by faculty, is crucial for putting this issue on the agenda in a clear and consistent way in the Harvard environment.”
The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) released a report revealing that, in 2022, at least 145 professors across the country were targeted for speech-related sanctions. FIRE ranks Harvard 170th out of 203 on its comprehensive “Campus Free Speech rankings” list.
In 2023, a survey conducted by College Pulse showed that a mere 27 percent of Harvard students disagreed with the tactic of shouting down a speaker; another 26 percent said it was acceptable to use violence to stop offensive speech on campus.