Harvey Silverglate is the co-founder and Chairman of the Board of Directors of The FIRE. In a new piece at Minding The Campus, he chronicles Harvard’s descent into political correctness at the expense of free speech.

The Slow Death of Free Speech at Harvard

A speech to the 55th reunion of the Harvard Law School class of 1958, October 26, 2013.

I graduated from Harvard Law School in 1967. Very early in my career, I represented many students in Administrative Board cases growing out of their protests against the Vietnam War. I represented (with Alan Dershowitz) one group of students accused by the Administrative Board of harassment for closely following the Harvard College Dean, Ernest May, 24 hours a day, chanting “murderer, murderer, murderer.” Wherever the dean walked in Cambridge, he was followed.  Dean May was consulting at the time for the Department of Defense. This is why the students followed him and chanted.

The College’s Ad Board acquitted the students on academic freedom/free speech grounds, simply advising the students to keep a respectful distance from Dean May when they followed him. This would never happen today. The definition of “harassment” has very much swallowed up the concept of free speech and academic freedom.

By the mid-1980’s, I noticed a distinct change in the culture of free speech and academic freedom throughout the entire country, but Harvard, and particularly Harvard Law School, was a pioneer in the slow death of these virtues.

The Harvard Law sexual harassment guidelines, 1996

My first public critique of the suppression of free speech at Harvard occurred in a 1996 Wall Street Journal op-ed, “Harvard Law Caves In to the Censors.” HLS adopted, for the first time in its history, the Harvard Law School Sexual Harassment Guidelines, which deemed certain unpleasant speech to constitute actionable “harassment.” This grew out of the publication of the annual Harvard Law Review April Fool’s Day parody issue in 1992, the Harvard Law Revue.  The satirical issue contained the infamous Frug parody: Mary Joe Frug, feminist legal scholar at Northeastern School of Law, was tragically and viciously murdered on the streets of Cambridge in 1991. As a memorial tribute to Professor Frug, the Harvard Law Review had published Professor Frug’s unfinished draft article on feminist legal scholarship. The satirical Revue made fun of this piece in a highly insensitive parody that contained a warning on the cover that it was “highly insensitive.”

Read it all at the link below.