Free Speech

Claudine Gay Resigns as Harvard University President

Hopefully, the next Harvard University president commits to improving free speech and ensuring the safety of all students.

On Tuesday, January 2nd, Claudine Gay resigned as Harvard University President after plagiarism accusations and her response to antisemitism on campus following the Hamas attack on Israel in October.

Gay is not the first of the Ivy League university presidents to resign following October 7th, with Liz Magill resigning from the University of Pennsylvania last month. Gay and Magill both testified before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce in early December. Gay was criticized after Congresswoman Elise Stefanik asked if “calling for the genocide of Jews violate[s] Harvard’s rules of bullying and harassment,” and Gay responded that “it can be, depending on the context.”

In November, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights opened an investigation at Harvard regarding allegations of antisemitism. Since October 7th, Harvard students have called for an “intifada,” and an Israeli student reported he was assaulted at a protest organized by the Harvard Palestine Solidarity Committee and Graduate Students 4 Palestine.

In a video statement following the October 7th attacks, Gay condemned Hamas but also said, “Our university embraces a commitment to free expression. That commitment extends even to views that many of us find objectionable, even outrageous. We do not punish or sanction people for holding such views.”

However, Harvard has not defended free speech on their campus. According to the Foundation of Individual Rights and Expression’s (FIRE) 2024 College Free Speech rankings, Harvard ranks dead last out of 248 American colleges and universities. It is the only university on the list to receive a score of 0.00 and an “abysmal” ranking — the worst score ever given to a university by FIRE.

Hopefully, the next Harvard University president commits to improving free speech and ensuring the safety of all students.

States looking to protect freedom of speech on their campuses should examine two ALEC model policies, The Free Speech in Higher Education Act and the Forming Open and Robust University Minds (FORUM) Act.

The Free Speech in Higher Education Act prohibits public colleges and universities from creating a “bias reporting system” to stifle free speech on campus and prohibits these institutions from charging discriminatory fees to student groups hosting a speaker on campus.

The FORUM Act prohibits public colleges and universities from creating “free speech zones” that restrict free speech to certain areas on campus, requires these institutions to report on free speech issues and educate students on their free speech rights, and allows students to bring a cause of action for freedom of speech violations against them on campus. This model policy has been implemented in at least 20 states.

Both of these policies can be found in ALEC’s Essential Policy Solutions for 2024.


In Depth: Free Speech

Freedom of speech is paramount for the American system of government and American culture. Born from revolution, American society has been created, evolved and progressed based in part, on the First Amendment. More specifically, free speech allows individual’s to use their own voice to ensure “We the People” would control…

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Free Speech