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Pendulum Shifting as to Whether Employers Should Take Position on Political/Social Issues

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Some polls suggest that many employees desire their employers to take public positions on political/social issues.  As a result, employers in recent years have increasingly taken such positions.  However, employees, customers, shareholders, and the public often take different views on such issues.  

Consider the recent lesson of Harvard University, which is very familiar with the history of student, faculty, and alumni controversies over political/social issues.  This past April, an "Institutional Voice Working Group" was established to consider whether and when Harvard should issue official statements on publicly salient issues.  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."

This writer submits there have been certain trend lines, and while a few years ago the trend was for employees to speak out on social issues, but the trend today is probably to do the opposite.  In any event, if an employer is to truly be inclusive, the philosophy of inclusiveness should consider the viewpoints of the members of the employer community, including those who might be opposed to whatever position the employer might take on a certain political/social issue.

This article is part of our July 2024 Newsletter. 

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