Harvard says it will refrain from statements on public policy issues

Harvard on Tuesday said it will no longer issue statements on public policy issues. File Photo by Matthew Healey/ UPI

May 29 (UPI) -- Harvard University officials the institution will not make comments on public policy issues in the future as the campus remains divided over the Israeli-Hamas war.

The move was a step to accept a key recommendation from Harvard's "Institutional Voice" working group, led by its faculty, that said on Tuesday Harvard should not "issue official statements about public matters that do not directly affect the university's core function," according to the student newspaper The Harvard Crimson.

"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 working group said in its three-page report.

All university administrators, governing board members, deans, department chairs and faculty councils should avoid commenting on public issues under the policy.

The working group left some wiggle room for university officials to speak on specific issues along with some of its centers that advocate for specific policies. It added, though, that those individuals and the centers should avoid appearing to speak for the university.

The report said future university leaders should lean on the report when questioned about the university's silence on particular issues.

"It should clarify that the reason for its silence is the belief that the purpose of the university is best served by speaking only on matters directly relevant to its function and not by issuing declarations on other matters, however important in themselves," the report said.

Harvard's leaders faced criticism for the university's slow response to Hamas's attack on Israel last October. It was slammed again when a pro-Palestinian student group blamed Israel for Hamas's action. That led some big-money donors to end their contributions.

President Claudine Gay resigned under pressure in December after giving Congressional testimony about the university's response, while also facing allegations of plagiarism.