Demonstration Policy

This policy outlines guidance and requirements for and restrictions on demonstrations and other forms of dissent on the Harvard Business School campus. It complements the University-Wide Statement on Rights and Responsibilities (USRR) and the 2002 and 2024 Statements that speak to the USRR’s application.


The USRR begins by noting,

The central functions of an academic community are learning, teaching, research, and scholarship. By accepting membership in the University, an individual joins a community ideally characterized by free expression, free inquiry, intellectual honesty, respect for the dignity of others, and openness to constructive change. The rights and responsibilities exercised within the community must be compatible with these qualities.

In the context of a University, reasoned dissent is one form of free expression and plays a vital role in advancing learning. At Harvard Business School, this occurs most frequently in the classroom, where the case method pedagogy relies on the ability of students to express even sharply different views so as to build understanding and deepen insight. Dissent also may occur in other contexts, whether during events (such as lectures, seminars, speeches, or panel discussions) or through actions such as demonstrations.

As outlined in the USRR and as articulated in Harvard Business School's Community Values, free expression and inquiry—including dissent—requires an environment of trust and mutual respect. All members of the HBS community, in joining it, agree to integrate the values of:

  • Respect for the rights, differences, and dignity of others,

  • Honesty and integrity in dealing with all members of the community, and

  • Accountability for personal behavior into every aspect of their experience at the School.

Those who choose to express dissent, including through demonstrations, must also recognize their responsibility to uphold and abide by these values.

Policies & Practices

Our policies and practices for demonstrations are designed to enable free expression, to protect public safety, and to ensure that the research, teaching, work, and other activities of the School are able to continue without interference.

While the Harvard Business School campus is largely open, it is also private property, and as such, the School has the right to set certain parameters for demonstrations. Although exceptions may be granted, the School limits the right of demonstration to members of the HBS community and Harvard University ID (HUID) holders.

Marches, Pickets, Sit-ins, Rallies, and Other Forms of Collective Action

Any Harvard-affiliated group wishing to stage a march, picket, sit-in, rally, or other form of collective action on the HBS campus should register with HBS Operations at least three business days in advance of the desired date. Groups that may necessitate additional security should aim to register as far in advance as possible. Registration will require providing information about the planned event and agreeing to abide by the School's policies and guidelines (e.g., for use of space) and its Community Values.

The School will make all decisions regarding the time, place, and manner of these demonstrations, as well as any planned counter-demonstrations. As the 2024 Statement clarifies, the USRR "guarantees the right of students to learn and study and to make a residential campus their home; the right of faculty and instructors to teach, research, and mentor; and the right of staff to do the vital work necessary for the University to fulfill its mission." At Harvard Business School, demonstrations are not permitted in classrooms, hives, or seminar rooms; libraries or other spaces designated for study, quiet reflection, and small group project work or discussion; residence halls or dining halls where members of the community live or take their meals; offices where the work of the School is carried out; or other places where demonstrations would interfere with the normal activities of the School.

When a demonstration occurs, demonstrators may not:

  • Inhibit the freedom of movement of members of the community (e.g., by blocking a pathway or building entry).

  • Wear masks or other face coverings to conceal their identity, other than for health reasons.

  • Erect a tent or platform, attach signage to the exterior of HBS structures, or in other ways alter a campus space without prior permission, secured during the registration process.

  • Use megaphones or other amplified sound.

Using public safety as their guide, HBS and Harvard administrators and security officers will determine the most appropriate means and time to address policy violations. If it is not possible to address such violations during the demonstration, the School will conduct an after-action review that may result in referral for discipline.


The following guidelines outline expectations for members of the community during events and other occasions—apart from class sessions—when speakers present their views.

During such events, an audience member’s right to dissent is the complement of the speaker’s right to speak, but these rights may not be exercised contemporaneously. A speaker is entitled to communicate their message to an audience, and members of the audience are entitled to hear and see the speaker. Demonstrators, then, cannot substantially interfere with or impede an event—whether by holding signs that obstruct the view of the stage or shouting down a speaker. Additionally, demonstrators may not use or threaten force or violence (such as damaging or defacing a sign or intimidating or assaulting a speaker or audience member), interfere with the freedom of movement of a speaker or audience member, or remain on the premises when asked to leave by Security, HUPD, or an administrator (e.g., a faculty or staff member acting on behalf of the School).

HBS may determine that open and civil discussion at an event requires the participation of a moderator and may designate a moderator in consultation with the event's host. A moderator will generally be a member of the faculty or senior staff of HBS or Harvard. The moderator's aim is to act as a neutral arbiter and to ensure that speakers take open questions from the audience at some point during the allotted time. HBS also may determine that an event requires the participation of staff to guide the event planners, to prepare and assist the moderator, to aid in managing the event, and to help make decisions during an event when questions or issues arise.

Forms of dissent at an event may include:

  • Distributing Literature—HBS may designate certain areas, either indoors or outdoors, where this activity can occur in an orderly way. When indoors, distributing literature is acceptable before the event is called to order and after the event is adjourned, but not during the speaking or content portion of the program.

  • Silent Protest—Displaying a sign, wearing symbolic clothing, gesturing, standing, or otherwise protesting noiselessly inside an event is acceptable unless doing so interferes with an audience member's view or is reasonably determined to prevent a speaker from effectively conveying their message.

  • Noise—Responding spontaneously and temporarily to a speaker is generally acceptable. However, chanting or making other sustained or repeated noises in a manner that substantially interferes with the speaker's communication or other program content is not permitted, whether inside or outside an event.

Photography, Audio and Video Recording, and Media

Capturing content, images, or conversations, including photography, audio, video, and live streaming, must comply with the Photographing and Filming on Harvard Property policy and the HBS Capturing & Disseminating Video/Photography During Course Activities policy. Some forms of capture are not permitted without prior permission, particularly if the content will be broadcast, disseminated publicly, or used for commercial purposes of any kind. All media on campus must be coordinated in advance with the HBS Marketing & Communications Office.

Infractions & Violations

HBS is an educational institution committed to advancing learning, whether we are preparing students for leadership in their organizations and communities or, through our faculty and staff, modeling leadership on our campus. Clarity about the rights and the responsibilities of every member of our community is vital. The ability to dissent is a reasonable expectation. So, too, is the idea of personal accountability for individuals who, through their words or actions, fail to uphold our Community Values

In the case of a potential violation of this policy, the School retains the right to facilitate the appropriate response, which may include warning letters or community service, HBS review (e.g., by the Conduct Review Board or a department), referral to other Harvard Schools or units, or referral to law enforcement.

To protect the rights of all parties involved, as is true for all conduct matters, review and sanctioning processes for allegations involving demonstrators and demonstrations will remain confidential. The School may periodically release aggregated, anonymized data on disciplinary actions, but will not release information about specific allegations—even to the complainants—in accordance with HBS policies on individual privacy.

Demonstration Permit Application

You must be a Harvard ID cardholder to apply to hold a demonstration on the HBS campus.