by Jessica Wills November 9, 2022
FIRE co-founder Harvey Silverglate is a criminal defense and civil liberties lawyer and a fierce defender of free speech. Now, he is running for the Harvard Board of Overseers.
If elected, Harvey intends to promote and protect free speech as well as fairness in disciplinary procedures on the Harvard campus— but first, he must secure a spot on the ballot. If 3,188 Harvard alumni sign this petition, Harvey will be eligible for the position, bringing Harvard closer to a robust free speech culture.
The Board of Overseers superintends Harvard’s “academic mission and long-term institutional interests.” Through a process called visitation, the board “probes the quality of Harvard’s programs and assures that the University remains true to its charter as a place of learning.”
If elected, Harvey intends to promote and protect free speech as well as fairness in disciplinary procedures on the Harvard campus.
Harvey has spent his career examining the state of higher education and fighting to protect the original mission of the university: in Harvard’s case, “[educating] the citizens and citizen-leaders for our society.”
In 1998, Harvey Silverglate and University of Pennsylvania Professor Alan Charles Kors co-wrote “The Shadow University: The Betrayal of Liberty on America’s Campuses,” in response to the growing threats to free expression and fair procedures that they saw on college campuses. The next year, they started FIRE to fight back against those threats.
Over 20 years later, the battle to protect free expression rights on college campuses is still raging. Harvard’s Recognized Student Organization Resource Guide contains a policy that infringes upon students’ ability to distribute flyers or other printed materials without specific permission from the administration.
Per this policy, if a student group were to distribute printed materials without the proper approval from the Dean of Students Office, Harvard could squelch student expression. A victory for Harvey in his run for Board of Overseers could be a step toward changing policies, like this one, that infringe upon the rights of students and faculty.
Harvey also hopes to tackle the issue of Harvard’s spending practices. Currently, Harvard is investing in all the wrong areas. In data self-reported to The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, Harvard’s administrative spending has increased by 176.12% from 2002 to 2020 — reaching over $1 billion per year. During the same period, instructional spending increased by only 41.92%. Harvard now employs three administrators for every one faculty member.
Harvey Silverglate has a real chance to change the trajectory of Harvard.
These financial decisions demonstrate that Harvard is prioritizing control over campus activities and students lives above the pursuit of truth. Harvey wants to get Harvard back on track by reclaiming the pursuit of Veritas, “truth,” as its highest value.
Harvey Silverglate has a real chance to change the trajectory of Harvard, but he needs your help. If you’re a Harvard graduate, please consider signing the petition to get Harvey on the ballot and sharing this information with your fellow alumni!
Harvey has devoted much of his career seeking to improve colleges and universities, including Harvard, from the outside. Now, before more student and faculty rights are violated, it’s time for him to effect positive change from within as a member of Harvard’s Board of Overseers.