Harvard, Stung by Controversy, Adopts Policy of Not Speaking Out

Harvard University, stung by recent controversy over antisemitism, has adopted a new policy of not speaking out on public issues not directly related to the institution.

The new policy was adopted after a “working group” of a select group of professors was convened in April to consider whether the university should expect to speak out on issues of public controversy.

In an email to “members of the Harvard Community” on Tuesday, Harvard said:

Today, we are delighted to share with the Harvard community the Working Group’s report, containing a set of principles and recommendations that ground the use of institutional voice in the University’s mission of “seeking truth through open inquiry, debate, and weighing . . . evidence.” In particular, the report concludes 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 reasons that when the University “speaks officially on matters outside its institutional area of expertise,” such statements risk compromising the “integrity and credibility” of our academic mission and may undermine 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 also have been endorsed by the Harvard Corporation. The process of translating these principles into concrete practice will, of course, require time and experience, and we look forward to the work ahead.

The Harvard Crimson observed:

The new guidelines come just months after former Harvard President Claudine Gay resigned following fierce criticism over her initial statement after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel, a scenario that the University hopes to never repeat with this new stance.

The “Institutional Voice” recommendations bring Harvard closer in line with peer universities that have adopted stances of institutional neutrality, but the working group’s report and Garber’s announcement were careful to highlight that the University will not be neutral.

Harvard president Claudine Gay resigned earlier in the year after failing to deal with antisemitism on campus, and the administration capitulated to many of the demands of anti-Israel student activists who occupied Harvard Yard, against university rules, for several weeks.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent e-book, “The Zionist Conspiracy (and how to join it),” now available on Audible. He is also the author of the e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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