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Harvard University will refrain from making statements on public policy issues not directly related to institutional functions, interim president Alan M. Garber announced Tuesday in a campus-wide email.

Garber noted the decision grew out of recommendations by the Institutional Voice Working Group established in April “to consider whether and when our institution should issue official statements on publicly salient issues.”

The group’s report makes clear, however, that the university is still expected to speak up on certain issues.

“Accordingly, the university has a responsibility to speak out to protect and promote its core function,” the Institutional Voice Working Group report says. “Its leaders must communicate the value of the university’s central activities. They must defend the university’s autonomy and academic freedom when threatened—if, for example, outside forces seek to determine what students the university can admit, what subjects it can teach, or which research it supports. And they must speak out on issues directly relevant to the university’s operation.”

The authors cautioned against “the university and its leaders” speaking out on “public matters that do not directly affect the university’s core function.” They argued that “the integrity and credibility of the institution are compromised when the university speaks officially on matters outside its institutional area of expertise.” Furthermore, Harvard’s leaders “are hired for their skill in leading an institution of higher education, not their expertise in public affairs,” they wrote. “When speaking in their official roles, therefore, they should restrict themselves to matters within their area of institutional expertise and responsibility: the running of a university.”

The report also noted concerns about pressure to comment on “every imaginable issue of the day,” should such statements become commonplace. “If the university adopts an official position on an issue beyond its core function, it will be understood to side with one perspective or another on that issue,” it read. The report recommended avoiding such statements going forward.

Tuesday’s announcement follows a challenging year for college presidents across the U.S. as campus tensions flared over the Israel-Hamas war. Many presidents who made statements following Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel and Israel’s retaliatory strikes on Gaza were criticized for a variety of reasons, illustrating how difficult it is for college presidents to please constituents when speaking out on polarizing political topics.