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Class of 2027 By the Numbers
Updated: November 15, 2023, at 1:59 p.m.
Proposals and protests to dename prominent Harvard buildings with controversial namesakes have taken center stage over the past year. But freshmen are split on their support for these proposals.
Roughly a third of the Harvard College Class of 2027 said they support proposals to dename campus buildings because of their controversial namesakes, according to The Crimson’s fall survey of the freshman class. This figure is down from the 51.6 percent of the Class of 2025 who found such proposals strongly or somewhat favorable in 2021.
Following repeated calls from Harvard affiliates to dename buildings named after figures with controversial legacies, the University is formally considering proposals to dename several buildings on campus.
Earlier this year, Harvard affiliates circulated a petition to dename Winthrop House, which is named after slave owners. As of September, the petition had amassed more than 1,000 signatures, including more than 150 freshmen, according to organizer and Crimson Editorial editor Clyve Lawrence ’25.
As for respondents who did not support denaming proposals, 21 percent viewed them as unfavorable, 19.9 percent had no opinion, and 24.6 percent did not have enough information to respond.
Views were divided along political preference, with 46.8 percent of self-identified progressive or very progressive students in favor of the proposals and 80.4 percent of conservative or very conservative students opposing the proposals.
The second part of The Crimson’s four-part survey of the Class of 2027 examines the class’ views on national politics and hot-button campus issues.
Around 45.8 percent of students in the Class of 2027 completed The Crimson’s freshman survey. The survey, which was open from Aug. 21 until Sept. 23, included questions about their backgrounds, beliefs, political views, social media use, and the application process.
The Crimson did not account for potential selection bias in its analysis of the survey results. Because of rounding, statistics may not total to 100 percent.
Just under a fifth of the freshman class, or 19.2 percent, said they were concerned or very concerned about their ability to freely express their views on Harvard’s campus, compared to 45.3 percent who were unconcerned or very unconcerned, 30.5 percent who were neither concerned nor unconcerned, and 5.1 percent who said they did not have enough information to answer.
Of the conservative students who answered this question, 58.8 percent said they were concerned or very concerned about their freedom to express views on campus, compared to 14.5 percent of progressive students.
Some professors have criticized what they describe as a lack of academic freedom on campus. More than 70 academics started the Council on Academic Freedom at Harvard in the spring to promote ideals of free speech.
The vast majority of freshmen — 82.8 percent — support efforts to promote academic freedom and free inquiry on campus, with just 1.2 percent against these aims.
Nearly half of surveyed freshmen, at 46.9 percent, found proposals to defund or abolish the Harvard University Police Department unfavorable, while 35.3 percent said they did not have enough information to answer. Only 7.7 percent of respondents found such proposals favorable, while 10.1 percent said they had no opinion.
Opinions varied significantly among political preference, with 31.1 percent of very progressive students in favor, while only 2 percent of progressive students in favor. Forty-two percent of progressive students were against proposals, along with 67.9 percent of moderates. Among conservative and very conservative students, 90.2 percent were against proposals to defund or abolish HUPD.
Just 4.6 percent of students said they did not support proposals to create an ethnic studies department, while 53.2 percent answered in support. The remaining students said they did not have an opinion or did not have enough information to answer.
A majority of freshmen identified as either not at all religious or not very religious. Though 23 percent considered themselves somewhat religious, only 12 percent of respondents said they were very religious, with 2.5 percent identifying as extremely religious.
Almost half of the freshman class reported as agnostic or atheist. Catholics make up the largest religious group at 16.4 percent, followed by those who identified as non-denominational Christian, Protestant, Jewish, Hindu, and Muslim.
Respondents to the freshman survey predominantly reported progressive political views, with 64 percent identifying as progressive or very progressive. Just 8.4 percent of students reported having conservative or very conservative views, and 24.4 percent reported moderate views.
More than half, or 52.9 percent of respondents, considered themselves to be affiliated with the Democratic party, compared to 5.5 percent affiliated with the Republican Party. Those who consider themselves politically independent made up 12.1 percent of the class, and 27.7 percent surveyed as being unaffiliated with a U.S. political party.
Freshmen were split on their opinions of President Joe Biden. Almost 40 percent found the incumbent president favorable, 28.3 percent unfavorable, 22.6 percent had no opinion, and 9.3 percent did not have enough information to respond.
Just 3.6 percent of respondents viewed former President Donald Trump favorably, while 86.8 percent viewed him unfavorably, 6.8 percent had no opinion, and 2.8 percent did not have enough information to respond. A third of conservative or very conservative students viewed Trump favorably.
Nearly half of freshmen reported that they did not have enough information for an opinion on the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement advocating for economic sanctions against Israel. Sixteen percent of respondents have no opinion on the movement, 11.8 percent have an unfavorable opinion, and 22.7 percent have a favorable opinion.
Respondents completed the survey in September, prior to the outbreak of violence in Israel and Gaza following Hamas’ attacks on Israel on Oct. 7.
Across political views, very progressive students were most likely to view the BDS movement as favorable. Roughly 49 percent of very progressive students viewed the movement as favorable, compared to 21.6 percent of progressives, 9.9 percent of moderates, and 7.8 percent of conservative or very conservative students.
Following Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, students rallied in Harvard Yard and denounced Russian President Vladimir Putin. Nearly 60 percent of survey respondents viewed U.S. aid to Ukraine as favorable, compared to 9.2 who viewed it as unfavorable. Eleven percent had no opinion, and 20.3 percent said they did not have enough information.
—Staff writer Tyler J.H. Ory can be reached at email@example.com.
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