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.