The Fall 2006 FIRE Quarterly includes a new column from Harvey Silverglate, FIRE co-founder and chairman, regarding the downfall of former Harvard President Lawrence Summers. For those who don’t remember, Summers resigned his presidency earlier this year after delivering a controversial speech and dealing with the public outcry that followed.
One of the lessons from this searing experience and tragic loss for academic freedom is that once a university begins down the road of intolerance toward disfavored or controversial viewpoints, there is not stopping point. Harvard has been guilty for a quarter-century of imposing ideologically biased speech codes and freshman orientations on its students….This atmosphere of intolerance ultimately reached the very top of Harvard’s food chain. Summers would have been in a stronger position to defend his own right to speak had he earlier rid the university of the shameful restrictions on student speech.
Silverglate’s article points out that Summers’s main mistake was apologizing for his comments, rather than “defending his right to express those views.” For the complete commentary, check out The FIRE Quarterly.