The Future of Academic Freedom

January 27, 2024 1 min read

Jeannie Suk Gersen
New Yorker

Excerpt: On January 2nd, after months of turmoil around Harvard’s response to Hamas’s attack on Israel, and weeks of turmoil around accusations of plagiarism, Claudine Gay resigned as the university’s president. Any hope that this might relieve the outsized attention on Harvard proved to be illusory. The week after Gay stepped down, two congressional committees demanded documents and explanations from Harvard, on topics ranging from antisemitism, free speech, discrimination, and discipline, to admissions, donations, budgets, and legal settlements.

Some at Harvard might say this is a crisis sparked by external forces: the government, donors, and the public. But it developed long before Gay became president and won’t end with her fall. Over time, Harvard, like many other universities, has allowed the core academic mission of research, intellectual inquiry, and teaching to be subordinated to other values that, though important, should never have been allowed to work against it.

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