‘Voice in the Wilderness’ Mounts Run for Harvard Board

A civil liberties lawyer fights ‘suppression of free speech and thought.’

Elisa Dorfman via personal website
Harvey Silverglate at Paris. Elisa Dorfman via personal website

One of Harvey Silverglate’s first cases was defending protesting students who took over Harvard’s University Hall in 1969. The long-time lawyer has now found a new front for his fight for civil rights: a bid for Harvard’s Board of Overseers, its governing body tasked with supervising the university’s “overarching academic mission.” 

The crusading outsider, who founded the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, is making a move for the inner circle. He promises to shine a light into the “dark crevices” of a university he feels has lost its way.  

Mr. Silverglate, a Harvard Law graduate who lives at Cambridge, calls himself a “voice in the wilderness” and a “dissident” who aims to bring a new perspective. He argues that the way “Harvard is run is absurd,” and castigates the “suppression of free speech and thought” that has taken root at the 386-year-old school. 

Asked about Harvard’s new president, Claudine Gay, Mr. Silverglate observes that she is “very bad news for Harvard” and finds it unfortunate that the school chose someone from the “inside.” Ms. Gay previously served as dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, a post that gave her purview over Harvard’s factitious faculty.

Mr. Silverglate asserts that Ms. Gay is “super politically correct.” He suggests that her predecessor, Lawrence Bacow, was undone by an administration staffed by bureaucrats “over which he had no control.” Mr. Bacow is stepping down after five years at the helm.  

The lawyer, who has represented Michael Milken, Leona Helmsley, and the Church of Scientology, sees “administrative bloat” as a national malady. “Deans need something to do,” he laments, and the result is less free speech and impoverished due process rights for students. He says that he would fire the majority of Harvard’s administrators.

Mr. Silverglate, described in the New York Times as an “old-fashioned civil libertarian,” is the author of “The Shadow University: The Betrayal of Liberty on America’s Campuses.” He avers that “affirmative action has been a disaster” and anticipates that the Supreme Court will hand Harvard a legal loss and end the practice when it rules on its constitutionality this June.     

This is Mr. Silverglate’s second bid for a seat on the Board of Overseers, and he is working to garner the requisite signatures to secure a spot on the ballot. He says the number of signatures needed to do so has been raised 10-fold from the number required when he first ran for overseer, to 3,000. Members are elected to the body via a vote of Harvard’s alumni, who will cast their ballots between the first of April and the 16th of March. 

The New York Sun

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