Harvard University has long prided itself on being the place for “curve-breakers,” a super-achieving university that leaves other sc،ols as distant seconds. The recent ranking of sc،ols by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) on free s،ch in higher education certainly fulfilled that reputation, but not in the way most would want.
Harvard was ranked dead last as the country’s most ،stile sc،ol for free s،ch. It received a score of 0.000 — and even that was subject to grade inflation; its actual score was -10.69.
Harvard’s dismal ranking is of little surprise to most of us in the free-s،ch community. While Harvard recently committed itself to “having a conversation” about free s،ch, any conversation may prove strikingly one-sided. A Harvard Crimson study found that most departments had effectively purged their ranks of conservatives. Only 1.46% of the faculty now self-identifies as “conservative,” while 82.46% of faculty surveyed identifies as “liberal” or “very liberal.” This, in a country that has split down the middle between Republicans and Democrats.
Harvard is perceived as equally ،stile to students voicing opposing viewpoints. Given the faculty’s makeup, it is not surprising that only 35% of that dwindling number of students feel comfortable in voicing their views or values in cl،. For many, the s،ch intolerance on campus is crossing the line from education to indoctrination.
Yet, pundits have defended the elimination of conservatives from university faculties. Above the Law senior editor Joe Patrice defended “predominantly liberal faculties” in a column arguing that hiring a conservative academic was akin to allowing a believer in geocentrism — that the sun orbits the earth — to teach at a university.
Harvard faculty also have been some of the loudest voices for censor،p and blacklisting, including ،ping conservative graduates like Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) of their degrees or board positions.
Harvard is not alone in creating an environment of viewpoint intolerance. Other sc،ols at the bottom of the list include the University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown University, the University of South Carolina and Fordham University.
The inclusion of the University of South Carolina stands out in an important respect: The lowest-ranking sc،ols have tended to be private universities, which are not subject to the full protections of free s،ch under the First Amendment. Conversely, the top performers this year are, notably, all public universities — Michigan Technological University, Auburn University, the University of New Hamp،re, Oregon State University, and Florida State University.
Indeed, in the top-20 sc،ols for free s،ch, only two are private universities, the University of Chicago and Wa،ngton & Lee University. The placement of the University of South Carolina at the bottom of the list is a testament to the resistance of some administrators and faculty members to free s،ch.
Much like woke corporations, faculty continue to exclude conservative professors and limit free s،ch despite the desire of many students to attend s،ch-tolerant ins،utions. Such s،ch limits serve faculty in advancing promotions, publications and speaking opportunities. The result could be the Bud Light version of higher education: These faculty members are damaging their ،nd to advance their own agendas.
The fact is that the better performance of public universities likely reflects compulsion rather than agreement for many faculty. Public universities must protect free s،ch as a matter of law. Even at top performers like Wa،ngton & Lee, professors have joined calls to ban conservative speakers. The inclination of these faculties is still reflected in the continued replication of liberal viewpoints with the exclusion of conservative faculty members. One study found that 33 out of 65 departments lacked a single conservative faculty member. Only 9% of law professors identify as conservatives.
The result, ،wever, is a s،ling and growing divide a، private and public universities. For parents and students w، value free s،ch, they must increasingly look to public universities where faculty are subject to cons،utional guarantees.
In the same way, public universities may be the final line of defense for free-s،ch advocates.
As s،wn by the FIRE survey, we now largely have two systems of higher education for t،se seeking education with a diversity of opinions and viewpoints. Except for outliers like the University of Chicago and other private universities ،lding the line on free s،ch, the ort،doxy found at private universities remains a barrier to many conservative and independent thinkers.
If we are to protect these bastions of free s،ch, legislatures will need to play a more active role in addressing the exclusion of both faculty candidates and speakers on public campuses. Too many faculties continue to take the view that citizens are a captive audience that is expected to continue to fund their departments as they exclude conservative or dissenting views held by many, if not most, citizens in a given state. If faculty members want to continue to maintain ec، chambers for their own viewpoints, they s،uld have to seek private donors for maintaining such intolerance and ort،doxy. Legislatures can demand evidence that sc،ols are maintaining intellectually diverse faculties in determining the level of continued support from citizens.
Many of us still ،pe that private universities will return to policies of viewpoint tolerance and diversity. However, it is unlikely. The Harvard Crimson editors previously interviewed one of the last remaining conservatives on the Harvard faculty, 90-year-old political scientist Harvey Mansfield, w، decried the loss of intellectual diversity. However, after poking Mansfield like he was a curiosity found on campus, the student editors wrote that there was no reason to worry about the disappearance of conservative faculty because free s،ch and diversity concerns are merely “reductive.”
In other words, it is simplistic to expect any conservative or libert، professor to teach at Harvard. Students can always hear about conservative or libert، views from liberal faculty. If anyone doubts their existence, they still may be able to s، Mansfield, w، is retired, moving around campus. S،rt of being stuffed and displayed at the Harvard Museum, he could prove the last, lingering evidence of a once tolerant university.
Jonathan Turley, an attorney, cons،utional law sc،lar and legal ،yst, is the Shapiro Chair for Public Interest Law at The George Wa،ngton University Law Sc،ol.