Harvard Chooses Silence Amid Controversy

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Harvard University, reacting to recent antisemitism controversies, has implemented a new policy of refraining from commenting on public issues not directly related to the institution.

This policy came about after a select group of professors formed a “working group” in April to determine whether the university should comment on contentious public matters.

Today, we are pleased to share with the Harvard community the Working Group’s report, which includes a set of principles and recommendations that anchor the use of institutional voice in the University’s mission of “seeking truth through open inquiry, debate, and weighing . . . evidence.” The report notably states that “[t]he university and its leaders should not . . . issue official statements about public matters that do not directly affect the university’s core function” as an academic institution. It argues that when the University “speaks officially on matters outside its institutional area of expertise,” such statements might compromise the “integrity and credibility” of our academic mission and could hinder open inquiry and academic freedom by making “it more difficult for some members of the community to express their views when they differ from the university’s official position.” We have accepted the faculty Working Group’s report and recommendations, which have also gained endorsement from the Harvard Corporation. Translating these principles into concrete practice will take time and experience, and we are eager to engage in this work.

The Harvard Crimson noted:

The new guidelines come just months after former Harvard President Claudine Gay resigned following severe criticism over her initial statement after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel, a situation the University aims to avoid repeating with this new policy. The “Institutional Voice” recommendations align Harvard more closely with peer institutions that maintain stances of institutional neutrality, yet the working group’s report and Garber’s announcement emphasized that the University itself will not be neutral.

Harvard president Claudine Gay resigned earlier in the year after inadequately addressing antisemitism on campus, and the administration conceded to many demands of anti-Israel student activists who occupied Harvard Yard, violating university rules, for several weeks.

Joel B. Pollak
Joel B. Pollak
South African-American conservative political commentator, writer, radio host, and attorney.

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