Harvard will no longer comment on public matters unrelated to core function


(CAMBRIDGE, M.A.) — Harvard University announced that it will no longer be speaking out on political or social issues that don’t impact the institution’s “core function,” after months of unrest on college campuses amid the Israel-Hamas war.

The move follows guidance and recommendations from the Institutional Voice Working Group, which Harvard established in April to consider if and how the Ivy League university should address “publicly salient” issues.

According to the group, it gathered input from each school at the university, as well as from more than 1,000 faculty, students, staff, and alumni via 31 focus groups, an online poll, and an email address to which people could submit their thoughts, to come to its conclusion.

The group recommended that the university and institutional leaders should not “issue official statements about public matters that do not directly affect the university’s core function.”

The statement noted that the report found “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."”

Harvard “is not a government, tasked with engaging the full range of foreign and domestic policy issues, and its leaders are not, and must not be, selected for their personal political beliefs,” the report says, in part. Harvard leaders have previously spoken out on issues including the Israel-Hamas war, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and as other geopolitical and sociopolitical issues.

The Institutional Voice Working Group was created following months of tension on the Harvard campus.

Immediately after the start of the Israel-Hamas war, student groups, led by the Palestine Solidarity Committee, issued a statement on the conflict, saying Israel is “entirely responsible for all unfolding violence.”

“Today’s events did not occur in a vacuum,” the Harvard student groups said in their statement. “For the last two decades, millions of Palestinians in Gaza have been forced to live in an open-air prison. Israeli officials promise to ‘open the gates of hell,’ and the massacres in Gaza have already commenced. Palestinians in Gaza have no shelters for refuge and nowhere to escape. In the coming days, Palestinians will be forced to bear the full brunt of Israel’s violence.”

After the statement was released, Jewish student groups pushed back and accused the pro-Palestinian groups of supporting the Hamas attack. Students in the pro-Palestinian groups denied those claims and said their statement was misinterpreted.

In January, then-Harvard President Claudine Gay resigned her office after facing criticism in a House hearing over allegations and concerns of antisemitism on the Harvard campus following the start of the Israel-Hamas War.

Most recently, the campus has seen an intensified wave of protests, including encampments of students demanding that the university divest from companies or groups that benefit from Israeli military operations in Gaza.

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