Commentary: Do colleges have a free speech problem?

October 02, 2023 1 min read

David Deming
Forked Lightning, Substack

Excerpt: A few weeks ago, the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) released their annual College Free Speech rankings. Harvard ranked 248th out of the 248 schools that were ranked. Not only did Harvard rank last, but FIRE singled us out for special scorn.

My first instinct – and maybe yours – was to think they cooked the books to generate a headline-worthy result. So, naturally, I burrowed into the survey methodology like the good social scientist that I am. My conclusion was that we have a serious problem with free expression on Harvard’s campus. It’s not quite six sigma bad, because the point values for speech sanctions are somewhat arbitrary and there are sample selection issues with the FIRE database (everything gets more attention when it happens at Harvard, and some of the cases they document weren’t speech issues at all). Still, the student survey results are deeply discouraging.

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