Harvard Says It Will No Longer Take Positions on Matters Outside of the University

Harvard said on Tuesday that it would now avoid taking positions on matters that are not “relevant to the core function of the university,” accepting the recommendations of a faculty committee that urged the university to dramatically reduce its messages on issues of the day.

If put into practice, Harvard would no longer issue official statements of empathy, which it did for Ukraine, after the Russian invasion, and for the victims of the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks in Israel, for example.

“In issuing official statements of empathy, the university runs the risk of appearing to care more about some places and events than others,” the report said. “And because few, if any, world events can be entirely isolated from conflicting viewpoints, issuing official empathy statements runs the risk of alienating some members of the community by expressing implicit solidarity with others.”

The university’s Institutional Voice Working Group, made up of eight faculty members, issued the report, with a set of principles and a recommended path forward, which the administration and governing board accepted.

“Harvard isn’t a government,” Noah Feldman, a Harvard law professor and a co-chair of the committee that developed the recommendations, said in an interview with The Harvard Gazette, released Tuesday as part of the university’s announcement. “It shouldn’t have a foreign policy or a domestic policy.”

The report, however, did not fully embrace “institutional neutrality” — a principle promoted by the University of Chicago, in which universities commit to staying out of political and social matters. Some universities, including Stanford University and Northwestern, announced shortly after the Hamas attack that they would adopt the policy.

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