Faculty, not politicians, must lead the way on free speech.
For better or worse (certainly worse), Harvard is a bastion of intolerant, religious, anti-truth thinking these days. Consider two propositions, “sex is a spectrum” and “race has no biological basis”. Neither statement is evenly remotely true. However, 99% of Harvard students and faculty would affirm the “truth” of these statements, at least publicly. Like it or not, universities have become deeply irrational. It is somewhat unclear if the race nonsense or the sex nonsense is more deeply held. This academic insanity is somewhat new (perhaps not, see below). From “Sex is a Spectrum” (https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2021/08/07/sex-is-a-spectrum/) a comment by Spencer
“Lol. I introduce students every semester to various non-overlapping or barley overlapping graphs by sex. Every year their jaws drop further. Twenty years ago barely an eyebrow was raised.”
The converse point is that Harvard and other universities were deeply religious and intolerant even years ago. The famous book “The Blank Slate” was written in 2003. The Summers affair (at Harvard) is from 2006. The Pinker/Spleke debate is from 2005. It was clear then (and still is) that Spelke was/is a liar. Was she ever punished for lying? Of course, not.
Of course, these problems are by no means limited to Harvard. Over at Yale, a talk was given on 'The Psychopathic Problem of the White Mind'. The speaker (Dr. Aruna Khilanani) explicitly fantasized about killing innocent white people and then was offended because Yale would not give her the recording. The following is from her speech.
“I had fantasies of unloading a revolver into the head of any white person that got in my way, burying their body, and wiping my bloody hands as I walked away relatively guiltless with a bounce in my step. Like I did the world a fucking favor. (Time stamp: 7:17)”
These issues are by no means limited to elite universities. At University of Southern Maine, an instructor (Christy Hammer) dared to say that there are two sexes All but one student (21 of 22) walked out in protest. The one student later caved to the fanatics. Of course, Hammer was entirely correct.
Huzzah for the Fifty! You are noble to assert that the locus of academic freedom rightly resides in the faculty? But why are there only 50 faculty? And why do we never hear strident support of Veritas from the board? None of these assaults on academic freedom at Harvard or elsewhere would be possible without board support, or at least acquiescence. It seems to me they are every bit the cronies you disparage on the conservative side. I would like to see all university board members on the record on this essential issue.
Meanwhile, thanks for fighting the Good Fight!
“inquisitions and purges” - excellent and essential reminder that tyranny and persecution may have religious or secular roots. Glad to see FIRE’s leadership acknowledged
The question I often ask of people making valorous efforts like these is, "What are you going to say to people who claim that someone's statements, or even presence, is causing LITERAL HARM to others?" A true answer could be something like "It's worth it for free speech," or "I don't believe that's actually happening," or "When someone talks himself into hysteria over nothing, we can try to help him but we can't have the whole world make a detour around him."
I don't see any of that happening, with "see" taking both the "observe" meaning and the "consider it likely" meaning.
As you note, "No one is infallible or omniscient. Mortal humans begin in ignorance of everything and are saddled with cognitive biases that make the search for knowledge arduous."
That's the principled way to frame the problem, but we're also dealing with a conflict between people who are interested in the search for knowledge and people who proceed on the principle that knowledge is what you make it. Instead of pursuing truth with more or less intellectual discipline, they're starting from attitudes that are privileged in their own circles and proceeding to beg the question of truth.
You would think that a university with 'VERITAS' on it's shield, would have some respect for truth. Of course, you would be wrong.