Harvard Announces It Will Stop Releasing Political Statements

Following months of campus protests over the war between Israel and Hamas, the university has announced that it will no longer weigh in on current events.


On Tuesday, Harvard officials announced that the university would adopt a formal stance of ideological neutrality on political events and other controversial issues. The decision comes after months of tumultuous campus protests over the war between Israel and Hamas.

Earlier this month, a faculty-led working group published a report that strongly recommended adopting a neutral stance on topics that do not directly concern the university itself.

"The university has a responsibility to speak out to protect and promote its core function. Its leaders must communicate the value of the university's central activities. They must defend the university's autonomy and academic freedom when threatened," the report stated. "The university and its leaders should not, however, issue official statements about public matters that do not directly affect the university's core function."

The report hinted at what is likely the prevailing reason behind Harvard's push toward neutrality—the immense pressure faced by school officials to weigh in on Hamas' October 7 attack against Israel, and the ongoing war in Gaza. The report noted how, if officials make statements about one topic unrelated to the university's core function, the school opens itself up to demands it comment on every other controversy.

"If the university and its leaders become accustomed to issuing official statements about matters beyond the core function of the university, they will inevitably come under intense pressure to do so from multiple, competing sides on nearly every imaginable issue of the day," said the report. "This is the reality of contemporary public life in an era of social media and political polarization."

Survey results released last week by The Harvard Crimson indicate widespread faculty support for neutrality. The survey found that more than 70 percent of Arts and Sciences faculty supported a shift to formal neutrality and more than half reported feeling "somewhat negatively" or "negatively" about "the current state of academic freedom at Harvard"

The announcement was met with widespread praise from free expression advocates.

"For better or worse, what Harvard does, others follow," Angel Eduardo, senior writer and editor at the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, wrote on Tuesday. "The principles outlined in the Institutional Voice Working Group's report don't just bode well for Harvard's future on free speech and academic freedom—they may also signal a significant sea change in colleges across the country."

On Wednesday, Syracuse University also announced that it would adopt the recommendations of a similar working group and take an official neutral stance.

"We embrace the guiding principle that the remedy for speech that some may find hurtful, offensive, or even hateful is not the disruption, obstruction, or suppression of the free speech of others, but rather more speech," a statement from the university reads. "Except under the most extraordinary circumstances and with the sole purpose of protecting its mission of discovery, improvement, and dissemination of knowledge, the University does not make institutional statements or pronouncements on current controversies."