Meet the Class of


Beliefs and Lifestyle

By Shera S. Avi-Yonah and Delano R. Franklin

As fossil fuel divestment activists ramp up their on-campus presence, they may find allies in the Class of 2023. Just over 60 percent of freshmen surveyed by The Crimson said they support calls for Harvard to divest its endowment from the industry, up from 53.9 percent of survey-takers in the Class of 2022.

When it comes to other campus issues, though, freshmen were more divided. 35 percent of freshmen said they supported the College’s decision not to renew former Winthrop Faculty Deans Ronald S. Sullivan, Jr. and Stephanie R. Robinson; about a quarter said they viewed that decision somewhat or strongly unfavorably.

Sullivan and Robinson left their positions at Harvard College last year after a months-long controversy surrounding Sullivan’s role defending Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein against criminal sexual assault charges.

Asked about the College’s social group penalties, nearly equal percentages of freshmen — roughly 21 percent — said they view them somewhat favorably and somewhat unfavorably. This year’s freshmen are the third class subject to the sanctions, which bar members of unrecognized single-gender social groups from holding student leadership positions, captaining varsity sports teams, and receiving College endorsement for prestigious fellowships like the Rhodes.

As freshmen settled into their dorms and adjusted to their new lives in Cambridge, roughly 55 percent of them responded to a Crimson email questionnaire about their backgrounds, beliefs, and lifestyles. The anonymous survey explores topics ranging from political ideology to alcohol consumption to perspectives on current campus controversies.

Of 1,666 students comprising the Class of 2023, 919 freshmen responded, representing 56 percent of the class. The Crimson did not account for potential selection bias in its analysis of the results. Due to rounding, reported statistics may not total exactly 100 percent.

The third and final installation of The Crimson’s series on the Class of 2023 examines students’ lifestyles — including their use of drugs and alcohol — as well as their religious and political beliefs.


Sexual Activity

Though new freshmen gained admission to Harvard during the most competitive application cycle ever, they do have one thing in common with previous entrants — roughly 60 percent of them are virgins. Freshmen who graduated from public high schools were more likely to report that they were virgins than those who went to private schools. 64.2 percent of freshmen who went to a public school reported being virgins, compared to 52.2 percent of freshmen who attended a private school.

  • A majority of non-virgins, 54.6 percent, said they have had just one sexual partner. The number of freshmen who reported having had two, three, four, five, six, seven, and eight partners dropped with each additional partner — before rising again at the nine and more-than-ten-partners mark.
  • Recruited athletes were roughly 25 percentage points more likely than other freshman to have had sex. That difference was nearly non-existent for students who plan to walk onto a varsity sports team, though — much like the class at large, 60.9 percent of them said they are virgins.
  • Many freshmen who took gap years had new experiences during their time off — 57.4 percent report having had sex compared to 37.9 percent of those who did not take gap years.

Alcohol and Drugs

Alcohol usage is slightly down from freshmen in the Class of 2022. This year, 63.1 percent of freshmen have consumed alcohol, compared to 66.5 percent last year. Results from questions about other substances, though, were much the same as prior years — except for some marijuana, Harvard freshmen generally eschew drug usage.

  • Once the subject of a Harvard controversy, LSD was the least popular drug among surveyed freshmen. Nearly all respondents, 98.6 percent, said they have never used it.
  • Results for several other drugs also neared total abstinence — 98.4 percent of freshmen reported they have never used cocaine, 98.3 percent have never used ecstasy, and 97.3 percent have never used mushrooms.
  • Tobacco usage creeped above the 10 percent mark — 10.8 percent of respondents reported experience with it. Marijuana was more than twice as popular; 23.8 percent of freshmen reported past usage.
  • The percentage of freshmen who reported having a fake ID nearly halved compared to last year — just 9.5 percent of freshmen reported having one, compared to 17 percent of the Class of 2022. Students from more densely populated areas and students with family incomes over $500,000 a year were all more likely to report having a fake ID.

Mental Health

A slightly higher percentage of surveyed freshmen reported having sought mental health counseling than in previous years. Last year, that figure stood at 22 percent; this year, it jumped to 24.6 percent. The percentage of those who have sought counseling was roughly the same for men and women, but much higher among students who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or questioning.

  • Asked what their greatest source of pressure is, 79.3 percent of those surveyed chose “their own expectations.” Male survey-takers were twice as likely as female ones to report that they “do not feel any pressure.”


Political Persuasion

Almost two-thirds of freshmen — 64.6 percent — indicated they are somewhat or very liberal, marking a slight decrease from last year when 65.8 percent identified as liberal. Almost 85 percent of freshmen said they have an unfavorable opinion of President Donald Trump, while just under 8 percent said they have a favorable opinion of him.

Views on President Donald Trump

  • Freshmen’s political leanings held steady from last year’s survey. Roughly a third did not identify as liberal — 23.1 percent of respondents indicated they are moderate, 10.3 percent said they are somewhat conservative, and 2.1 percent responded they are very conservative.
  • Female respondents were more likely than men to identify as liberal. 71.2 percent of women indicated they are somewhat or very liberal and 57.3 percent of men responded the same.
  • The percentage of self-identified Democrats was similar to that of liberals at 63.1 percent. The next largest group was independents at 17.2 percent. Republicans only have the support of 10.5 percent of Harvard freshmen.

Harvard Issues

Though more than half of surveyed freshmen support divestment from fossil fuels and private prisons, support for the former is slightly higher. Asked about their opinion on several campus issues, 60.1 percent of freshmen said they view fossil fuel divestment favorably. Asked about prison divestment, 55.5 percent of freshmen said the same.

  • Freshmen overwhelmingly supported Harvard’s decision to revoke Government professor Jorge I. Dominguez’s emeritus status — 52 percent of surveyed freshmen said they viewed it strongly favorably, and another 20 percent said they viewed it somewhat favorably.
  • Harvard’s decision to dismiss head fencing coach Peter Brand was nearly as popular, nearing 70 percent support among the Class of 2023. An independent investigation of Brand found that he violated conflict of interest policies after selling his home to a prospective student’s father for hundreds of thousands of dollars above its assessed value.
  • Some issues though, did not spark strong opinions either way among surveyed freshmen. For questions soliciting their opinion on the selection of University President Lawrence S. Bacow and on an anti-sanctions lawsuit brought by some social groups, the most popular choice was no choice. Nearly half of students — 46.4 percent — said they had no opinion of Bacow. As for the social group suit, 56 percent of surveyed students said they either have no opinion or lack the information to form one.
  • Asked whether they thought all single-gender groups should go co-ed, responses were similarly mixed – 22 percent said they should go co-ed, 34 percent said they should not, and 43 percent said they had no opinion.


Facebook Activity

Alongside social media mainstays Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter, The Crimson asked freshmen about their use of YouTube and TikTok for the first time this year. More than 85 percent of freshmen use the former every day; just 10.7 percent of freshmen use the latter.

  • Twitter was the second least popular platform after TikTok — 52.9 percent of freshmen said they do not have a Twitter account.
  • Nearly all freshmen, however, use Instagram. Nearly 91 percent reported using Instagram every day, and 17.3 percent said they scroll through the app for at least an hour a day.
  • No matter the app they prefer, freshmen overwhelmingly use iPhones. The percentage of iPhone users came in at 86.5 percent, whereas just 12.7 percent reported using an Android.