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Why Harvey?

Free Speech Advocate

 Faithful Harvard Alumnus

Harvey's Goals for Harvard

  • ​Practice Harvard's Motto: Veritas 

  • Guarantee Free Speech for Students, Faculty, and Staff

  • Encourage debate and viewpoint diversity





I graduated from Harvard Law School in 1967. I’ve been a free speech and academic freedom activist from the very beginning of my career. I joined the ACLU of Massachusetts while I was in law school, after which I served for some 30 years on its Board of Directors, including two years as Board president. I am the co-founder of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and an Adjunct Scholar of Cato Institute. My law practice focuses on criminal defense, free speech, and academic freedom cases and I work of-counsel with the Boston firm Zalkind, Duncan & Bernstein, LLP.


 I consider myself partly a lawyer, partly a journalist. I nearly went into journalism rather than law. In fact, I was working for The Ridgewood (NJ) News when my editor sent me, in August 1963, to cover the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. I wrote two stories (one for the Ridgewood (N.J.) Herald-News and one for The Sunday News) indicating why it was likely to be a great historical event in the long struggle for equal rights and civil liberties for all. ​

Meet Harvey


Starting in the 1990s, I noticed an odd and upsetting phenomenon. Students at American colleges – many of them my clients – were being charged in disciplinary tribunals not for what they were alleged to have done, but rather for what they said. I defended my clients by citing not only the long American tradition of free speech and due process in general, but also the principles of academic freedom – the extent to which speech was supposed to be even freer on college campuses than in “the real world.” The way I put it then (and, alas, now) was: “Speech that is fully protected in Harvard Square is penalized in Harvard Yard.” (What a difference a mere fence can make!)

                In the late 1990s, my undergraduate classmate at Princeton (Class of 1964) and I began working on a book about this disturbing phenomenon called The Shadow University: The Betrayal of Liberty on America’s Campuses (published in 1998). As a result of the overwhelming number of students and even faculty members who sought my legal help, in 1999 my co-author and I founded The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, recently re-named, in order to reflect a broader mission, The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression.


This is not the first time I’ve run for the Board of Overseers. I ran in 2009 as a petition candidate. I came very close to winning a seat on the Board in that election. The reason that my candidacy did not prevail was because the Harvard Alumni Association refused to send out my statement containing my platform to the vast number of Harvard alumni who were the voters. These alumni received statement from the official nominees, but the HAA told me that only members of the official slate would be able to send their messages to the voters. Despite this unfair disadvantage, I came close to winning a seat, demonstrating that I was not the only Harvard graduate who was concerned about the degradation of due process and free speech at Harvard.

                I have decided to run again. The problems that have concerned me for my entire career have not ameliorated. If anything, they have gotten worse. I believe that, with all of my experience, I can explain to the entire Board why it is essential that its members use whatever influence and authority they possess to convince Harvard that its slogan – Veritas (Truth) – requires that speech be free. Free speech and academic freedom are essential for a liberal education. It’s that simple.

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