Ultra-Liberal Harvard and GWU Law School Stifling Free Speech; Both Seemingly Deny There Is Any Problem To Even Be Discussed
Harward And GWU Stifle Free Speech
WASHINGTON, D.C. (September 27, 2022) – Two ultra-liberal institutions of higher education – Harvard University and the George Washington University Law School [GWU] – stifle free speech on campus according to reports by distinguished professors, notes public interest law professor John Banzhaf.
Indeed, the problem at GWU is serious enough to warrant alarming reports in the Washington Examiner ("GWU Law Professor Says Students Ask Him If They Can Speak Freely in Class") and The College Fix ("Conservative GWU Law Students Fear Grading Bias From Professors").
At Harvard, where the faculty is over 82% "liberal" or "very liberal," but only 1.46% "conservative" and 0.0% "very conservative" - compared with the general population which is about 35% conservative, 25% liberal, and 35% moderate - a senior professor complains that:
- “The Harvard Commencement is something like the Democratic National Convention"
- "I don’t think a conservative has been hired in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences in the last decade. And it’s probably been going on longer than that."
- "if you’re conservative and want to get on with your colleagues, you have to indulge in self-censorship . ."
- "I think a number of students do that ["indulge in self-censorship"] as well [as faculty].
At GWU, a well known law professor reports that he routinely has visits from students who wonder if they dare to speak freely in classes without being penalized by professors; a fear he has heard about only in the past several years.
He suggests that "it is the widespread fear of conservative students who have faced faculties with overwhelmingly liberal viewpoints and growing intolerance on virtually every campus."
Clearly, one of those faculties with overwhelmingly liberal viewpoints is GWU. The National Jurist has just reported that of all the American law schools it was able to rank, 89% "fall on the liberal side of the divide."
More precisely, 4 law schools were labeled "Most Conservative," 14 were "Conservative," 23 were "Moderate," 80 were "Liberal," and another 57 were "Very Liberal."
Then, even more off to the left in philosophical leaning, were a smaller group of only 16 law schools - including GWU Law School - which were labeled "Most Liberal."
He notes that what is happening at GWU Law School is happening on many campuses, and suggests that "it is the widespread fear of conservative students who have faced faculties with overwhelmingly liberal viewpoints and growing intolerance on virtually every campus.
Now a new study at North Carolina confirms how conservative students routinely 'self-censor' and do not feel comfortable sharing their views in classes. Not surprisingly given the heavy liberal makeup of faculties, liberal students feel little such fear over retaliation."
Indeed, he notes that another study "finds that only nine percent of law school professors identify as conservative at the top 50 law schools"; a very sharp [40%] drop from fifteen percent only a few years ago in 2017.
More recently this faculty member wrote that "Other faculty . . . are fearful of being publicly targeted by their colleagues or students. In three decades of teaching, I have never seen this level of intolerance and the general lack of support for free speech on many campuses."
Although there may be no concrete evidence that any GWU law professor even penalized a student because he was conservative or libertarian, the concern - if not fear - that this could happen may not be completely unreasonable.
That's because GWU's law students probably have read of many instances at GWU, and on other campuses, where students have been punished by their universities for what they said or expressed. For example:
Investigation Of Students
Several years ago the GWU Law School sought to cause an investigation of a popular law student simply because she used the word "Jew" in a strictly private conversation.
An undergraduate was suspended and almost expelled because he briefly displayed an ancient religious symbol which another student mistook for a Nazi swastika - even though a display of a real swastika is protected under GWU's guarantees of academic freedom; guarantees which a court has held are legally binding.
More recently at GWU, when students put up posters by a famous artist which were critical of Communist China's record on human rights, the posters were taken down and the students were investigated; something which could put them, or their families in China, in serious danger. Earlier, a GWU student was ordered to take down a Palestinian flag after GWU received complaints about it from other students.
Incidents such as these - all of which violated the legally binding academic freedoms GWU guarantees to students - might well make GWU students worried that expressing unpopular views might lead to punishment, and similar events at Harvard probably have caused concern there also.
Indeed, at Harvard, students are warned that using the wrong pronouns constitutes "abuse" for which they can be punished; although courts are holding that this type of forced or coercive speech violates the speakers' freedom of speech.
In mandatory training (some say "indoctrination") sessions, Harvard undergrads are told that they may be subject to disciplinary proceedings for "sizeism," "fatphobia," "cisheterosexism," "transphobia," "ageism," and "ableism," and that "fatphobia" and "cisheterosexism" perpetuate "violence." It's no wonder, says Banzhaf, that this university ranks so low in protecting academic freedom.
Finally, In at least one instance, there seems to be clear proof that grades may suffer if students do express a view their professors disagree with.
Penalizing With Lower Grades
Banzhaf notes that, according to a formal complaint filed with the Department of Education, students at the University of Vermont were penalizing with lower grades because of what they said.
More specifically, the formal legal complaint alleged that: "During the last half-year, she has threatened [apparently on social media] to lower the grades of Jewish students for whom Zionism is integral to their Jewish identity"; an identity which is described as "demonstrat[ing] pride in their shared Jewish ancestry and ethnicity by expressing support for a Jewish homeland."
But few at Harvard or GWU seem to think there is a serious problem if students are afraid to speak for fear of being penalized by faculty for expressing certain views.
Even if there is no evidence that this has even happened - and it's hard to see how there could ever be such evidence of actions taken in the privacy of a faculty office unless a professor was stupid enough to brag about it.
It suggests a toxic poisonous atmosphere of distrust where many very bright enthusiastic young law students are afraid that one of their law professors might engage in conduct which is not only unethical, but could even lead to disbarment.
At Harvard, for example, the editors of the Crimson wrote that they disagree sharply "that a more even distribution of faculty along a conservative-liberal binary would increase productive disagreement in any meaningful way. We find little reason to believe that.
In fact, boiling down ideological and intellectual diversity to such limited labels strikes us as downright reductive."
So, at Harvard, whose motto is "Veritas" (truth), as well as at what some have called (perhaps half jokingly) "The Harvard on the Potomac," as well as at many other universities, truth may be dying if students are afraid to say what they believe to be true for fear of being penalized, argues Professor Banzhaf.