Good luck with that.
Nearly 250 Harvard affiliates signed onto a petition this month calling on the University’s Presidential Search Committee to nominate a candidate who “actively affirms the importance of free speech” on campus.
They did so anonymously. Or at least temporarily anonymously until their names get leaked to a gleeful press.
Signatories of the petition, which was addressed to the search committee and Penny S. Pritzker ’81 — the committee’s leader and the senior fellow of the Harvard Corporation — hid their names from the public, though organizers said names would be disclosed to the committee.
More than 200 students, 31 alums, and 11 faculty members signed the letter, per a copy of the petition viewed by The Crimson.
200 students, 31 alumns and only 11 faculty members. That says it all. Those with careers, especially on campus, are terrified of rocking the boat and defending free speech.
“Harvard’s mission to ‘educate citizens and citizen-leaders’ depends on an environment of open inquiry and criticism,” the petition reads. “But unless the next President shows a firm commitment to protecting free speech at Harvard, that environment will continue to contract.”
The petition alleges free speech protections provided by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences’ Free Speech Guidelines, adopted in 1990, have “often been curtailed,” leading to a “climate of repression.”
And as a sign of that, a petition in support of free speech has to be anonymous.
Harvard University spokesperson Jason A. Newton declined to comment on the petition.
That seems appropriate for a university that doesn’t believe in free speech and one whose students are terrified to criticize it by asking for free speech.
Co-organizer Jacob A. Cremers ’23-’24, who publicized the petition to Harvard undergraduates, said he and Li hid signatories’ names to protect those concerned about backlash.
“The potential negatives of signing it are huge. The negatives of not signing it are nothing,” Cremers said. “The positives of signing it are potentially zero — unless they really believe in the cause.”
The cause being free speech. Which faculty and students are too terrified to defend in public at Harvard.