Founder calls Harvard free speech club an 'urgent necessity'
A new, non-partisan student group at Harvard University is fighting for free speech rights on campus by intentionally inviting controversial speakers to lecture on campus.
The Harvard College Open Campus Initiative, founded by Harvard sophomore Conor Healy, “is a new student group born out of a shared concern among many students for ideological trends threatening freedom of speech.”
“We were particularly concerned with the ‘shut it down’ mentality displayed on campuses across America.”
In an interview with Campus Reform, Healy, who is Canadian, said that after taking a course on free speech in America with Professor Sanford Ungar, he realized that “advocacy for First Amendment principles, particularly on Harvard’s campus, has innate merit and urgent necessity.”
“As a group, we are doing a number of things to combat those who aim to censor,” Healy continued. “We were particularly concerned with the ‘shut it down’ mentality displayed on campuses across America; that is, when individuals introduce ideas out of step with modern social justice theory, ideas that are deemed ‘dangerous,’ the approach of leftist groups on campus is to prevent these conversations from happening.
“Our plan is to saturate Harvard’s campus with underrepresented views,” Healy explained. “We are planning these so-called ‘dangerous’ events throughout the next few semesters. In other words, we want to have the conversations we know other students want, but are afraid to ask for.”
The group, which already has several dozen members and has raised nearly $10,000 from Harvard alumni, scheduled its first lecture with University of Toronto psychology professor Jordan Peterson.
Peterson was recently prevented from speaking at a Canadian campus due to “his belief that legally enforced (or otherwise institutionally backed) use of one’s preferred gender pronouns is a burden on individual liberty,” but while those same views drew flak from Harvard students on social media ahead of his visit to that campus, only about 10 students actually showed up to protest.
Healy, who successfully brought Edward Snowden to his high school at the age of 17, has also invited American Enterprise Institute scholar Charles Murray to speak in the fall. Murray has been extensively criticized for his view that economic success is more determined by intelligence than socioeconomic factors, and had a speech at Middlebury shut down earlier this year.
Despite receiving significant criticism for his work, Healy is “used to getting a lot of pushback while pursuing what I believe in.”
“The majority of students, want this! They want this campus to be more open to confronting new and different ideas; they want to stop being chastised when their views aren’t in line with orthodoxy, or when they seek new information,” he concluded. “Harvard can set an example for schools across the country that the forces of academic freedom will not cower in the face of violent protestors.”
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