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Harvard's Claudine Gay free speech warrior!

Claudine Gay disinvites Thomas Spritlzer as keynote speaker to the college's annual DEI convention.

Said a visibly upset Gay, "I had no idea he was a White Jewish guy from Highland Park. Jesus H Christ! I mean Hazrat Muhammad. Plus the mouth on this guy...he's worse than those racist bastards who we're grilling me at the hearings. Hey Snitz, consider your white ass canceled!"

Oh, I thought her name was Claudette? She must have changed it...her stage name and all.

Harvard’s Claudine Gay uses ‘free speech’ as a defense after a history of squelching it

By Social rConnor Murnane and Angel Eduardo, NY Post

Published Dec. 11, 2023

During last week’s House Education Committee hearing on campus antisemitism, college presidents like Harvard’s Claudine Gay used free speech grounds to defend anti-Israel protests on campus.

The problem is, Gay’s defense rings hollow when stacked against the university’s reputation.

When it comes to free speech, Harvard is abysmal.

It finished dead last in the 2024 College Free Speech Rankings from our organization, the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression.

FIRE’s results come from survey data of more than 55,000 students at 248 schools, assessing openness, tolerance, self-expression, administrative support for free speech and campus speech policies.

Harvard’s final score? Zero.

Worse than zero, actually, because FIRE rounded up from -10.69.

Harvard pays lip service to free expression, but its record says otherwise. There have been nine reported attempts in the last five years to punish students, student groups, scholars and speakers for speech protected under First Amendment standards. Seven resulted in sanctions.

While this may seem small, it’s not. One sanction can potentially cause hundreds to self-censor out of fear — and the numbers show they have. Students who report self-censoring “fairly often” or “very often” have increased from 16% in 2021 to 24% in 2023.

That — along with 10 ambiguous or easily abused speech codes, such as vaguely defined requirements that students be “civil” when using computers or networks — is why Harvard consistently lands at the bottom of FIRE’s rankings.

As for whether Claudine Gay can turn things around: We’re hopeful, but her record leaves room for doubt.

In 2019, while still Faculty of Arts and Sciences dean, Gay was instrumental in Ronald S. Sullivan Jr. losing his position as residential dean for representing disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein.

Rather than respect Sullivan’s constitutional role as a defense attorney, Gay cited student outrage as evidence that “more work must be done to uphold our commitment to the well-being of our students.”

The implication being that for Gay, the constitutionality of a given action or argument may not overcome current student sentiment.

Then there’s Gay’s insistence on institutional activism in response to George Floyd’s death. In an August 2020 memorandum, she noted, “The calls for racial justice heard on our streets also echo on our campus,” and affirmed her “personal commitment” to “institutional change” regarding “the pernicious effects of structural inequality” at Harvard.

By attempting to signal Harvard’s position in this national debate, Gay immediately alienated differing opinions.

This is a far cry from Gay’s sudden recognition that “the pursuit of truth is possible only when freedom of expression is protected and exercised” and that Harvard “will not allow discomfort or disagreement with opinions fairly expressed to impede this pursuit.”

Given this, accusations of double standards on Gay’s part are understandable.

Still, it’s possible Gay sincerely intends to correct course. Her inaugural commitment to “open inquiry and freedom of expression as foundational values” and her defense of “robust debate” at the hearing may signal a welcome change at Harvard. Skepticism is warranted, but cynicism shouldn’t get in the way of progress.

Regardless of Gay’s future, the path back to public respectability for Harvard is clear: consistently defend free expression for all.

Firing Ivy League presidents should only be the beginning

To do this, it must first review campus policies and reform speech-restrictive codes so they respect the individual rights of students and faculty.

It should also adopt a strong institutional commitment to free speech, such as the Chicago Statement on Freedom of Expression. This will ensure Gay’s stated adherence to open inquiry, freedom of expression and robust debate are more than just talk.

Perhaps most important, Harvard must commit to institutional neutrality. As colleges are increasingly called upon to take positions on current issues, the Kalven Report reminds us colleges are not critics but rather “the home and sponsor of critics.”

A university dedicated to neutrality is better positioned to fulfill its mission of generating and disseminating knowledge free from double standards and scandal.

If Harvard and President Gay wish to live up to the motto of “Veritas,” or truth, they must recommit to the fundamental principles of free expression that make the search for truth possible.

Connor Murnane is director of engagement and mobilization at the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression. Angel Eduardo is senior writer and editor at FIRE.

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