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Institutional Voice

Dear Members of the Harvard Community,

In April, the Institutional Voice Working Group was established to consider whether and when our institution should issue official statements on publicly salient issues. We write today to share the Working Group’s report and recommendations.

The Working Group was a faculty committee drawn from across the University, reflecting an array of backgrounds and expertise. They conducted extensive outreach to the Harvard community, gathering input from every school and more than 1,000 faculty, students, staff, and alumni through 31 focus groups, an online poll, and a dedicated email address. The Working Group also researched existing University and School-based practices relating to Harvard’s institutional voice and considered approaches at other universities.

Today, we are delighted to share with the Harvard community the Working Group’s report, containing a set of principles and recommendations that ground the use of institutional voice in the University’s mission of “seeking truth through open inquiry, debate, and weighing . . . evidence.” In particular, the report concludes that “[t]he university and its leaders should not . . .  issue official statements about public matters that do not directly affect the university’s core function” as an academic institution. It reasons that when the University “speaks officially on matters outside its institutional area of expertise,” such statements risk compromising the “integrity and credibility” of our academic mission and may undermine open inquiry and 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.”

We have accepted the faculty Working Group’s report and recommendations, which also have been endorsed by the Harvard Corporation. The process of translating these principles into concrete practice will, of course, require time and experience, and we look forward to the work ahead.

We encourage you to read the report and a related Gazette Q&A with the Working Group’s co-chairs, Professors Noah Feldman and Alison Simmons. We are grateful to them, the members of the Working Group, and all who contributed ideas and insights that informed these thoughtful recommendations.


Alan M. Garber
Interim President

John F. Manning
Interim Provost

Meredith Weenick
Executive Vice President

Andrea Baccarelli
Dean, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Tomiko Brown-Nagin
Dean, Harvard Radcliffe Institute

Nancy Coleman
Dean, Division of Continuing Education and University Extension

George Q. Daley
Dean, Harvard Medical School

Srikant Datar
Dean, Harvard Business School

Emma Dench
Dean, Harvard Kenneth C. Griffin Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Douglas W. Elmendorf
Dean, Harvard Kennedy School of Government

Marla Frederick
Dean, Harvard Divinity School

William V. Giannobile
Dean, Harvard School of Dental Medicine

John C.P. Goldberg
Interim Dean, Harvard Law School

Hopi E. Hoekstra
Edgerley Family Dean, Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Rakesh Khurana
Dean, Harvard College

Bridget Terry Long
Dean, Harvard Graduate School of Education

David C. Parkes
Dean, Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

Sarah M. Whiting
Dean, Harvard Graduate School of Design