Skip to main content

Statement on the Report of the Electronic Communications Policy Task Force

Cambridge, Mass.

In March 2013, I convened a University-wide task force to develop recommendations for “policies regarding access to, and confidentiality of, electronic communications that rely on university information systems.” After nearly a year of deliberation and consultation, the Electronic Communications Policy Task Force, led by David Barron, the Honorable S. William Green Professor of Public Law at Harvard Law School, has issued its exceptionally thoughtful report.

In developing its report, the Task Force reviewed current University policies and considered the rules and practices of peer institutions that share our academic mission. They consulted broadly with students, faculty, and staff to gain a deep understanding of the concerns and expectations of the members of the Harvard community.

Accompanying the report is a recommended policy grounded in the fundamental values necessary for intellectual inquiry and the free exchange of ideas—transparency, trust, and respect for academic freedom. The policy also acknowledges that the University must maintain a well-functioning electronic information infrastructure and ensure business continuity in order to support our teaching and research mission. As part of the Task Force’s consultation process, and in keeping with the values that guided this important work, the Task Force has posted a draft of its proposed policy for review and comment by the Harvard community before its adoption and implementation. I very much hope you will take the time to read the Task Force’s work and offer any comments you may have on the discussion board that it has established.

I am grateful to David Barron for his investment of time in leading these efforts, and to the members and staff of the Task Force for their thoughtfulness and hard work in pointing us forward on this important set of issues. While many of the changes we face are complex and have yet to emerge fully, I believe that we now have a much clearer understanding of how we might navigate the road ahead. I look forward to receiving the Task Force’s final proposed policy at the conclusion of the comment period.

Report: Download PDF