Is Harvard More Repressive Than the Town That Banned Swearing?

By on July 2, 2012

That’s the question FIRE Chairman and Co-Founder Harvey Silverglate asks in his latest letter to The Boston Globe about Harvard University and the town of Middleborough, Massachusetts, which recently banned curse words (punishment: a $20 fine). Harvey makes the connection between the two: 

[I]t should come as no surprise that a municipality makes the assumption that it has the legal power and moral authority to dictate what its citizens may not say.

Since the mid-1980s our institutions of so-called higher learning have been instituting ever-stricter speech codes that make it a punishable act for one student to offend another by uttering anything deemed by the listener to be demeaning.

Indeed, Harvard went a shocking step further this past year when Thomas Dingman, dean of freshmen, sought to get all first-year students to sign a "kindness pledge." …

Harvey’s letter is worth a minute of your time to read, and his point that repression at universities is leading people to more easily accept such limitations in our larger society is also a theme of FIRE President Greg Lukianoff’s upcoming book, Unlearning Liberty.

Schools: Harvard University