NO SURPRISE HERE: Harvard Got an “Abysmal” Free Speech Rating as Pro-Life Speech Heavily Censored in Schools Across the Country  

Caroline Wharton - 20 Sep 2023
Guest post by SFLA Texas Field Operations Coordinator & Legal Correspondent Olivia Torralba

GUEST POST: The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) released its annual college free speech rankings recently, and Harvard University — one of our nation’s most acclaimed institutions — came in dead last. 

The state of the Ivy League university’s free speech was labelled “abysmal” and given a 0/100. FIRE even went so far as to say that Harvard should have received a negative score (the suggested accurate rating was –10.69), but the organization gave the school a 0 “to be generous.”  

FIRE gave many reasons for this score, including the fact that “abortion in particular has become increasingly difficult to discuss on campus” as 46% of Harvard students identified abortion as “a difficult topic to have an open and honest conversation about on campus” in 2023.  

Sadly, Harvard’s poor treatment of their staff and students’ free speech is unfortunately the norm these days. Students for Life of America (SFLA) knows all too well that these issues are commonplace across the country.  

As an example, SFLA received more than 100 free speech violation reports in the 2022-2023 school year from our student groups. In just two semesters, 100-plus schools failed to protect their pro-life students’ First Amendment rights, allowing them to be censored and harassed for merely holding life-affirming views.  

That’s why it’s no wonder that many of the schools on FIRE’s bottom-tier list are schools that have censored SFLA groups. For example, the University of New Mexico, which ranked #227 out of 248 schools, frequently censored the SFLA group on campus during the 2022-2023 school year. Bowling Green State University, ranked #203, also failed to protect their pro-life group when they were being harassed by pro-abortion bullies.  

SFLA President Kristan Hawkins speaking on campus

FIRE also surveyed students on all 248 campuses about whether or not pro-life speakers should be allowed on campuses — and the results are worrisome. Nearly 25% of survey responses from each school deemed that the answer should be “definitely should not allow speaker.” Viewpoint discrimination, anyone?  

Interestingly, 37% of George Mason University students responded that pro-life speakers “definitely should not” be allowed on campus. That tracks because this is the same university that had a public smear campaign against George Mason University’s SFLA group (which led to wide support of their group from the broader pro-life movement).  

It’s clear that many schools across America are failing to protect their students’ free speech rights, especially when it comes to pro-lifers — but SFLA groups don’t need to weather the storm alone. 

SFLA’s legal team is ready to advise and act on your account if you or your group has been facing First Amendment violations. Just email [email protected] with what has been going on, and we’ll see how we can help you. To see how SFLA has helped pro-life students before, check out this high school student that won the right to have a SFLA group after being initially denied.  

If you’re a pro-life university student, check out FIRE’s ranking of your school…do you agree with it?  

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