More Than Three-Quarters of Surveyed Harvard Faculty Identify As Liberal

This third installment of The Crimson’s survey of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences explores respondents’ political views on a range of issues, including academic freedom, race-conscious admissions policies, and more.
By Rahem D. Hamid and Elias J. Schisgall

More than 77 percent of surveyed Harvard faculty identified as either “very liberal” or “liberal” in The Crimson’s annual survey of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

Just under 32 percent of faculty respondents said they were “very liberal.” Approximately 45 percent of respondents identified as “liberal,” 20 percent as “moderate,” more than 2 percent as “conservative,” and less than 1 percent as “very conservative.”

These results largely track with last year’s results of The Crimson’s faculty survey, where more than 80 percent of respondents said they identified as liberal, with only 1 percent identifying as conservative.

The Crimson distributed its survey to more than 1,300 members of the FAS and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, including tenured and tenure-track professors, non-tenure-track lecturers, and preceptors. The survey collected demographic information and opinions on a range of topics, including Harvard’s academic atmosphere, life as a professor, and political issues.

The anonymous 124-question survey received 386 responses, including 234 fully-completed responses and 152 partially-completed responses. It was open to new responses between March 23 and April 14. Responses were not adjusted for selection bias.

The first installment of The Crimson’s faculty survey covered respondents’ views on the controversy surrounding accusations of harassment against professor John L. Comaroff and Harvard’s Title IX policies. The second installment concerned respondents’ opinions on top Harvard administrators including outgoing University President Lawrence S. Bacow and incoming president Claudine Gay.

This third installment explores faculty respondents’ political views on a range of issues, including academic freedom, race-conscious admissions policies, and more.

FAS spokesperson Anna G. Cowenhoven declined to comment for this article.

Academic Freedom

Almost 76 percent of surveyed faculty said they believe that academic freedom is under threat in America, with just over 11 percent disagreeing. A majority — approximately 52 percent— of surveyed ladder faculty said they “strongly agree” that academic freedom is under threat, compared to approximately 27 percent of non-ladder faculty.

More than 61 percent of surveyed faculty said Harvard emphasizes academic freedom just enough, with more than 36 percent saying it merits greater emphasis.

In a free-response question asking what they believed were the strongest threats to academic freedom right now, several faculty referenced right-wing political movements and figures.

“MAGA-inspired parents and politicians who want to ban books, restrict syllabi, revoke tenure, and destroy education more than they have,” one member wrote.

Still, not all faculty said that the threat came from the political right.

One faculty member cited “Woke-crazed students and cancel culture.” Another member wrote about the “lack of tolerance for diverging political views, especially more moderate or conservative leaning opinions.”

Approximately 57 percent of faculty respondents said they agreed that Harvard should give controversial speakers a platform, even when many faculty or students object to their views. More than 20 percent disagreed.

In a free-response question about how Harvard ought to promote free speech, some faculty called on the school to sign the “Chicago Statement,” a free speech policy statement developed at the University of Chicago and signed by nearly 100 schools, including Princeton University and MIT.

Affirmative Action

As many legal scholars expect the Supreme Court to strike down race-based affirmative action this summer, surveyed faculty overwhelmingly backed race-conscious admissions policies.

Just over 76 percent of surveyed faculty said they strongly or somewhat agreed with Harvard’s defense of race-conscious admissions policies, with approximately 9 percent disagreeing.

A plurality of surveyed faculty — more than 44 percent — also somewhat or strongly disagreed with the Court’s decision to take up the case. Nearly 19 percent agreed with the decision.

In an open-response question, some faculty members took aim at legacy admissions, with one faculty member writing, “We need to keep affirmative action, but question both legacy admissions and athletic admissions policies.”

Still, some faculty members remained concerned over the impact that College’s admissions policies’ could have on Asian American applicants.

“Some of the evidence presented about Harvard’s discrimination against Asian and Asian-American students has made me very sad and upset, and has also been extremely harmful to the cause of supporting diversity-promoting admissions policies,” one member wrote.

More broadly, just over 50 percent said Harvard emphasizes diversity, inclusion, and belonging just enough, with approximately 20 percent saying it does so too much and approximately 29 percent saying it does so too little.

Issues on Campus

In recent years, Harvard has seen a wave of student activism related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, caste discrimination, and Harvard’s investments in the fossil fuel and prison industries.

A majority of faculty — more than 57 percent — said they would not characterize their views as either pro-Israel or pro-Palestine, with approximately 10 percent saying they are more pro-Israel and more than 32 percent saying they are more pro-Palestine. Nonetheless, more than 77 percent of faculty said the University should not provide more support for pro-Israel or pro-Palestine causes.

Approximately 61 percent of surveyed faculty said they believed that Harvard should follow Brown University in banning caste discrimination, with just under 4 percent disagreeing.

Nearly two years after Harvard announced it would let its investments in fossil fuels expire, only about 15 percent of surveyed faculty said they agree that the University is doing enough to fight climate change, while nearly 59 percent of respondents said they disagreed.

Faculty respondents generally supported the move to divest from fossil fuels, while some called for faster action in an open-response question.

“Do more and hurry it up,” one faculty member wrote, with another writing that “divesting fossil fuels should move faster.”

Harvard still maintains investments in companies tied to the prison industry, long a point of contention for activists. Just under three-fourths of surveyed faculty said they felt Harvard should divest from prisons, with approximately 8 percent saying it should not.


The Crimson’s annual faculty survey for 2023 was conducted via Qualtrics, an online survey platform. The survey was open from March 23, 2023, to April 14, 2023.

A link to the anonymous survey was sent to 1,310 FAS and SEAS faculty members through emails sourced in February 2021 from Harvard directory information and updated in subsequent years. The pool included individuals on Harvard’s Connections database with FAS affiliations, including tenured, tenure-track, and non-tenure-track faculty.

In total, 386 faculty replied, with 234 filling the survey completely and 152 partially completing the survey.

To check for response bias, The Crimson compared respondents’ self-reported demographic data with publicly available data on FAS faculty demographics for the 2021-22 academic year. Survey respondents’ demographic data generally match these publicly available data.

In The Crimson’s survey, 47 percent of respondents identified themselves as male and 45 percent as female, with 2 percent selecting “genderqueer/non-binary,” 1 percent for “other,” and 5 percent for “prefer not to say.” According to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences’ 2022 Report, 39 percent of FAS faculty as a whole are female.

53 percent of respondents to The Crimson’s survey were tenured or tenure-track faculty and 47 percent were non-tenure-track faculty. According to the FAS data, 58 percent of faculty are tenure-track and 38 percent are non-tenure-track.

31 percent of survey respondents reported their ethnic or racial background as something other than white or Caucasian, with 9 percent opting not to report their race. According to the FAS data, 27 percent of faculty are non-white.

—Staff writer Rahem D. Hamid can be reached at

—Staff writer Elias J. Schisgall can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @eschisgall.

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