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Faculty: Harvard should adopt ‘neutrality’ policy on controversial issues

Survey finds professors also concerned about self-censorship, intolerant students

More than two thirds of Harvard University faculty want the administration to adopt an “institutional neutrality” policy for political and other contentious issues, a recent survey found.

The survey, conducted annually by The Harvard Crimson student newspaper, also found self-censorship and student “intolerance” were among faculty members’ biggest concerns.

The results come as the Ivy League institution’s administrators face criticism for their responses to the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack, antisemitism, and pro-Palestinian protests on campus.

Among other things, Harvard’s leaders have been questioned for choosing to fly the Ukrainian flag on campus in 2022 when the conflict with Russia broke out, but not doing the same for Israel.

In the survey, 70 percent of faculty said the university should adopt an institutional neutrality policy, including 44 percent who “strongly support” the change.

Harvard spokesperson Jonathan Swain told The Crimson earlier this year the university is considering such a policy.

The survey also found widespread concerns about the compulsion to self-censor.

When asked about the “greatest threats to academic freedom at Harvard,” faculty ranked self-censorship as second (62 percent) and intolerance among students as third (52 percent). Their top choice was pressure from donors at 71 percent.

Additionally, more than one third said a lack of ideological diversity among faculty is a threat. The results are based on responses from more than 500 faculty.

The Crimson reports more:

A 57.1 percent majority of respondents said they felt poorly about the state of academic freedom at Harvard, with 39.0 percent answering that they felt “somewhat negatively” and 18.2 percent indicating they felt “negatively.” […]

Most respondents laid the blame for their academic freedom woes at the feet of the political right. A slim majority of respondents, 50.8 percent, said they thought academic freedom was threatened more by the political right, compared to 26.3 percent who said they thought it was more threatened by the left.

During a hearing in December, House Republican leaders asked Harvard’s former president, Claudine Gay, about antisemitism as well as the university’s decision to take sides on certain issues.

Among New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik’s questions was why the university flew the Ukrainian flag on campus in 2022 and condemned the “deplorable actions” of Russian President Vladimir Putin, The College Fix reported.

Gay, who later resigned, said the decision was made by her predecessor “as an exception to a longstanding rule.” She said the “standard protocol” is to fly only the American flag unless Harvard is hosting a visiting dignitary.

MORE: This year’s Harvard commencement speaker compared Israel to Nazi Germany

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About the Author
Micaiah Bilger is an assistant editor at The College Fix.