Campus & Community

President and Deans reaffirm longstanding statement

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In view of campus events last spring and since, the President of the University and the Deans of the Faculties have had a series of discussions in recent months regarding the rights and responsibilities of members of the Harvard community. These discussions have resulted in a statement by the President and Deans, which follows.

Their statement reaffirms the longstanding University-wide Statement on Rights and Responsibilities, adopted in 1970. The 1970 statement underscores the University’s commitment both to protecting free expression and reasoned dissent, and to ensuring that members of the University can carry out their normal activities without interference.

To highlight the application of the 1970 statement to building occupations that interfere with normal activities, the President and Deans have proposed, and the governing boards have adopted, a brief interpretation of the 1970 statement. The President and Deans also express their shared view about appropriate discipline relating to such conduct.

Statement of the President and Deans
on University Rights and Responsibilities

In view of events last spring and beyond, questions have been raised about Harvard’s policies regarding protests and demonstrations. We take this opportunity to affirm our shared commitment to an academic community in which all members of the University are able to express their views freely and vigorously. We also affirm our commitment to ensuring that all members of the University are able to carry out their normal duties and activities in support of the University’s mission without interference or constraint by others. These commitments are expressed in the longstanding University-wide Statement on Rights and Responsibilities.

We believe it is timely to remind the University community of this longstanding policy statement and its application to unauthorized occupation of University buildings. To highlight that aspect of the existing policy, we have proposed and the Governing Boards have adopted an “interpretation” of the Statement, parallel to a prior “interpretation” regarding personal harassment. The newly adopted interpretation has been appended to the University-wide Statement on Rights and Responsibilities and now appears at the bottom of its text.

While we recognize that the determination of specific penalties for violation of this policy by students is primarily the responsibility of the several faculties, we regard it as essential that there be shared understandings across the University that emphasize the serious nature of building occupations that interfere with the ability of members of the University to carry out their normal duties and activities and the serious consequences that should follow from such interference. We are therefore informing the relevant officers and committees in our faculties of our shared view that students who engage in such conduct should ordinarily be subject to suspension, and that others who engage in similar conduct should be subject to appropriate sanction. Of course, applicable laws may also bear on such conduct, and the University-wide Statement itself has potential application to many other forms of conduct.

We also believe it important, when a building occupation or similar acts involve participants from different Schools, that steps be taken toward coordination in the approach to discipline, including possible reference to the University-wide Committee on Rights and Responsibilities.

See the full text of the University-wide Statement on Rights and Responsibilities.