Boston Globe: A five-point plan to save Harvard from itself

By Steven Pinker

Updated December 11, 2023, 2:07 p.m.


“For almost four centuries, Harvard University, my employer, has amassed a reputation as one of the country’s most eminent universities. But it has spent the past year divesting itself of tranches of this endowment. Notorious incidents of cancellation and censorship have contributed to a plunge in confidence in institutions of higher education, prompting me and more than 100 colleagues to found a new Council on Academic Freedom at Harvard. That was before Harvard came in at last place in the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression’s Free Speech ranking of 248 colleges, with a score of 0 out of 100 — originally less than zero, but Harvard benefited from a bit of grade inflation. (I’m a FIRE adviser but had no role in the rankings.)

Then in June, the Supreme Court ruled against Harvard in a suit claiming it had discriminated against Asian American applicants. And in October, after the massacre of 1,200 Israelis by Hamas, 34 student organizations calling themselves the Harvard College Palestine Solidarity Committee blamed the pogrom “entirely” on the victims’ own government. Harvard’s newly installed president, Claudine Gay, issued a muted, both-sidesy statement. Following an outcry, with headlines like “Harvard’s Horror” and “Harvard Is a National Disgrace,” she followed up with a second statement and then a third, pleasing no one.