Freeing Harvard


Harvey Silverglate, civil liberties lawyer and co-founder of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, is running for a seat on Harvard's Board of Overseers. reason asked him to pinpoint the three worst trends in modern American academia.

1.) Speech codes: Commencing with the "sensitivity" movement in the mid-1980s, universities (public and private) continue to enforce speech codes that restrict expression. University P.R. spokesmen (who almost always speak for silent administrators) deny the existence of "speech codes," though. They instead call them "harassment" codes, which prohibit students from saying anything that will offend ("harass") another.

2.) Student discipline: Our campuses have developed the kangaroo court to an art form. Harvard is the worst—students are not entitled to even the most basic procedural rights because the process is "educational" rather than "disciplinary." This linguistic abuse brings to mind Orwell's 1946 essay "Politics and the English Language"—not widely taught in higher education any longer, coincidentally.

3.) Corporatization of the academy: Rather than streamlining the academy to emulate the best aspects of corporate culture, modern universities have adopted the worst aspects. Consider the aforementioned P.R. flack protecting the president from having to respond about speech codes and kangaroo courts. Or the rush to open branch campuses in the Persian Gulf states, where academic freedom is a secondary consideration to the sheik's check clearing.