Sean Stevens, FIRE's director of polling analytics, is not surprised by the findings. In the four years the survey has been conducted, he says the state of free speech at Harvard has been "abysmal" – this year with a score of -10.69 on a scale of 100 points.
"All four years, they've done poorly and been in the bottom quartile of the rankings … regardless of how many schools we surveyed," Stevens relays. "While I think their overall score this year [is] surprising, it's not surprising to see them at or near the bottom."
Harvard administrators have largely rebuffed FIRE's efforts to reach out to them when speech controversies have arisen.
"I do think it's accurate to say that faculty on a lot of campuses appear to be more concerned than administrations as a whole," the analyst notes. "That's not to say that there aren't individual administrators who care about the issue."
According to FIRE's findings, the number-one school for free speech is Michigan Technological University in Houghton.