Harvard Promises To Stay Silent On Issues Unrelated To Its ‘Core Function’

Sometimes weighing in on social issues does more harm than good. Harvard Promises To Stay Silent On Issues Unrelated To Its ‘Core Function’ Giphy

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It’s been a rough few months for what is widely considered America’s premiere institution for higher education. Along with many other campuses nationwide, Harvard University has become a hotbed of student protests and demonstrations, generally related to the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict.

And when the university has waded into the thorny topic, it has only added fuel to the fire.

Presidential remarks

One of the most notable examples of Harvard’s ill-advised public commentary came late last year when the university’s then-president testified before Congress. She declined to issue an unequivocal answer to a question regarding whether it would be a violation of the school’s code of conduct to call for the genocide of Jews.

Despite issuing an apology, the backlash against Claudine Gay (along with allegations about prior plagiarism) led to her resignation.

Harvard has since sought input from students, faculty, and alumni about whether it should offer official statements on “publicly salient” topics or only opine on issues that relate to its “core function” as an educational institution. According to a report issued this week, the university seems to have landed in the latter category.

Reaching a consensus

A new entity established last month took into account the feedback of various stakeholders before reaching its recommendations. In order to compile as much relevant information as possible, the Institutional Voice Working Group:

  • Solicited input from all of Harvard’s schools
  • Reached out to more than 1,000 individuals
  • Provided 31 focus groups and an online poll

In the end, the group determined that if Harvard or its leaders issued statements about peripheral social issues, it would “risk compromising the ‘integrity and credibility’ of our 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.’”

Chris Agee
Chris Agee May 30th, 2024
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