fbpx General Regulations and Standards | Harvard Kennedy School

As a student at Harvard Kennedy School, you are an integral part of the vibrant Harvard community. In order to foster a welcoming, respectful, and rewarding environment for all, the school has outlined your rights and responsibilities as well as important codes of conduct to which we expect all community citizens to adhere.

Achieving the full potential of Harvard Kennedy School requires everyone in the HKS community to help build an environment of integrity, professional behavior, learning, and respect. In pursuit of those goals, HKS students are committed to the following:

Exhibiting Honesty and Integrity

  • Abiding by HKS’s Academic Code.
  • Representing oneself honestly and accurately, both inside and outside HKS.

Acting Professionally

  • Taking responsibility for one’s behavior and for one’s physical and mental well-being.
  • Interacting in a mature and responsible manner within HKS and as a representative of HKS in external contexts such as professional interviews and field experiences.

Building a Positive Learning Environment

  • Participating constructively and collegially in class and in activities outside of class, so that everyone can do their best work.
  • Fostering open and civil discussion by listening to and being open to learning from others.
  • Communicating over social media with the same respect as in person.

Fostering Mutual Respect

  • Treating all members of the HKS community with civility and respect.
  • Appreciating diversity and helping to create an inclusive environment where everyone belongs.

NOTE: Specific policies and guidelines for behavioral and academic expectations, violations of some of which could result in discipline, are included in the rest of the student handbook.

Code of Conduct

Achieving Harvard Kennedy School’s mission requires an environment of trust, mutual respect, professionalism, and a commitment to truth, learning, and freedom of expression.

The Harvard Kennedy School community has agreed upon the following principles to accomplish this mission:

  1. Respect for all members of our community and for the space we share.
  2. Professional excellence and intellectual and academic rigor and integrity.
  3. A disciplined learning environment, respecting different opinions and cultures and contributing to the understanding of all.
  4. Accountability for actions inconsistent with this Code of Conduct.

It is the expectation of the School that all students, whether or not they are on campus or are currently enrolled as a degree candidate, will behave in a mature and responsible manner. This includes taking accountability for one’s own well-being, including responsible decision making regarding physical and mental health. Further, the School expects every student to be familiar with the regulations governing membership in the Harvard and HKS community as set forth in the student handbook. Because students are expected to show good judgment and use common sense at all times, not all kinds of misconduct or behavioral standards are codified here; other behaviors that violate the social norms of Harvard Kennedy School or Harvard University also may be subject to disciplinary sanctions. Students are expected to comply with all disciplinary rules from matriculation until the conferring of their degree. A degree will not be granted to students who are not in good standing or have a disciplinary charge pending against them.

In addition to the behaviors described elsewhere in this Handbook, the following behaviors are examples of conduct that may be subject to disciplinary sanctions: cheating, plagiarism, forgery or other forms of academic dishonesty; furnishing false information to university officials; and disruption or obstruction of teaching, research or other university activities, including occupation of a university building. Any of the following behaviors are also grounds for disciplinary sanctions: physical violence or abuse (including without limitation sexual assault); verbal abuse, harassment, coercion or other conduct that threatens the health or safety of any person or persons; theft of or damage to property; violation of published University rules or federal, state, or local law on University premises or at University-sponsored activities; and misuse or abuse of library or computer facilities. (Note that allegations of sexual and gender-based harassment, including sexual assault, initially are subject to specific procedures under Harvard’s University-wide policy, as adopted by HKS.)

Expectations During Virtual Operations 

During any times in which HKS conducts its operations virtually, including hosting courses, events, meetings and activities online, all of the policies, regulations and rules articulated in this Handbook apply. When students are communicating, collaborating, and connecting with one another—and with faculty, staff, alumni, and affiliates—virtually, they must do so in a manner that is consistent with the School’s values. Maintaining professional and respectful behavior in any HKS online environment is critical to ensuring that all students are able to fully participate in the learning experience and opportunities, and to achieve their educational goals. Whether participating in courses, community events, or other online forums (including but not limited to platforms like KNet and Canvas), all students are expected to adhere to the Code of Conduct outlined herein. Any violations of the Code of Conduct may result in disciplinary action by HKS.

Academic Code

Harvard Kennedy School has a commitment and obligation to produce graduates who are ethical professionals. Integral to this training is the value of academic honesty. High standards reflect the school’s academic integrity, foster a respectful environment for work and study, and provide an example of academic excellence for others. The Harvard Kennedy School Academic Code is an integral part of the HKS Code of Conduct.

Principles of the HKS Academic Code

All students must be committed to:

  1. Doing their own work.
  2. Citing ideas and words that are not their own in all assignments, e.g., any fact, phrase, or sentence from any source, including, for example, the Internet.
  3. Strictly following collaboration guidelines as set forth by instructors for each assignment.
  4. Not doing another student’s work or providing answers to another student.

All faculty members are committed to clarity for all work products with regard to:

  1. Collaboration guidelines.
  2. Requirements for citation in all written work.
  3. Not changing assignments (numbers or due dates) previously stated in the course syllabus.

Academic Dishonesty and Plagiarism

Members of the HKS community commit themselves to producing work that adheres to the scholarly and intellectual standards of accurate attribution of sources, appropriate collection and use of data, and transparent acknowledgement of the contribution of others to our ideas, discoveries, interpretations, and conclusions. Cheating on assignments or exams, plagiarizing or misrepresenting the ideas or language of someone else as one’s own, falsifying data, or any other instance of academic dishonesty violates the standards of our community, as well as the standards of the wider world of learning and affairs. Using someone else’s words or concepts without attribution is a serious violation of the Academic Code. It is the student’s responsibility to learn and use the proper forms of citation. If students submit work either not their own or without clear attribution to the original source, including but not limited to the Internet, they will be subject to discipline by the HKS Administrative Board, ranging from a warning to required withdrawal or expulsion from Harvard Kennedy School.

It is expected that all work product submitted at HKS, including drafts of papers, presentations and memos, must be researched and written by the student whose name appears on the document. Students may obtain feedback from faculty members, course assistant/teaching fellows (CA/TFs), and/or preceptors, who may give students direction for improving their writing and, using examples from the work itself, specifics for revisions, but students should not expect instructors to provide extensive editing or to correct errors.

Students may solicit feedback from classmates only in the form of asking for general responses to the ideas expressed and/or the clarity of presentation. Classmates may make general suggestions about how to improve the assignment, but must not make specific revisions or corrections.

It is not acceptable for students to ask someone, either paid or unpaid, to:

  1. Rewrite an assignment.
  2. Extensively edit or correct a written assignment to improve either the contents or the presentation.
  3. Translate any part of a written assignment.

It is the expectation of every course that all work submitted will have been done solely for that course. If the same or similar work is submitted to any other course, the prior written permission of all instructors involved must be obtained. Submitting work used professionally or for another school also requires prior written permission from the HKS instructor. Failure to adhere to these rules is a violation of the Academic Code.

Collaborative Work

Harvard Kennedy School students must also recognize the ethical obligations that arise out of collaborative work assignments in some HKS courses. Work of this sort is frequently an integral part of the teaching process; the school expects students to further the learning and competence of their colleagues. Students should be careful to meet the conditions specified in a collaborative assignment.

Permission to collaborate on one assignment does not mean collaboration is permitted on any other assignment. If students are uncertain about those conditions, they should obtain clarification from the instructor. When collaboration is permitted within a course students must acknowledge any collaboration and its extent in all submitted work. Failure to comply carries an academic penalty and may result in disciplinary action against the students involved. If at any time students have a question about these procedures, they should consult their instructor or program director.

Timing of Academic Misconduct

If an allegation of academic dishonesty arises after a student has received a degree, the case will be referred to the HKS Administrative Board. A finding of academic dishonesty in such a case may result in rescission of the degree.

HKS Diversity Statement

Harvard Kennedy School is committed to advancing the public interest by training enlightened leaders and solving public problems through world-class scholarship and active engagement with practitioners and decision makers. This commitment, we believe, includes teaching our students to lead effectively across lines of difference.

Our faculty, students, and staff are exposed to and learn to understand a broad array of ideas, insights, and cultures. Gaining this exposure involves attracting outstanding people from diverse backgrounds and traditions. The Kennedy School does not discriminate against any person on the basis of race, color, creed, national or ethnic origin, age, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital or parental status, disability, source of income, or status as a veteran in admission to, access to, treatment in, or employment in its programs and activities.

The Kennedy School actively pursues the expansion and maintenance of an atmosphere that welcomes new ideas—even unpopular and controversial ones—and encourages an effective and active exchange of views in an environment of mutual respect.

Harvard Kennedy School is committed to recruiting a highly diverse group of faculty, students, and staff. We work to ensure that our appointments and selection procedures consciously identify and evaluate people from underrepresented groups. We also actively strive to remove sources of unconscious bias.

The Kennedy School’s curriculum deals with issues of diversity and encourages students and faculty to talk openly and effectively about difficult and highly charged issues. The School provides professional support to faculty as to how to teach these issues effectively. We emphasize the powerful benefit of the exchange of ideas. The School enlists students in efforts to make classrooms and classmates more welcoming of the ideas and insights that students from different backgrounds and perspectives offer. And we seek to correct situations where full and open exchange of ideas has been limited.

One of Harvard Kennedy School’s greatest assets is its breadth of talent in the community. The School is consistently working toward increasing that diversity further and taking full advantage of the opportunities for training enlightened leaders and solving critical public problems.

University-Wide Statement of Rights and Responsibilities

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.

See University-Wide Statement on Rights and Responsibilities for details.

Other Standards of Conduct in the HKS and Harvard Community

You are expected to uphold additional standards of conduct as a member of the Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard University community. These standards are in place to help ensure your safety during your time at HKS, protect data and resources, and enforce laws and policies. By adhering to these important standards, you play a crucial role in creating a community where all can flourish.

Open Debate, Protest, and Dissent at HKS

Harvard Kennedy School is committed to open and civil discussion. Listening to and learning from others is fundamental to the educational process and essential to our mission of improving public policy and leadership. To foster an environment of open and civil discussion, the following guidelines frame the expectations for members of the HKS community during events, meetings, and other occasions apart from class sessions when speakers present their views—on the HKS campus or elsewhere at Harvard University. (In class sessions, HKS’s student Code of Conduct regarding respect for all members of the community applies. The guidelines here for occasions apart from class sessions draw heavily on similar guidelines that have been used by Harvard Law School and the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences).

The right to dissent is the complement of the right to speak, but these rights need not occupy the same forum at the same time. A speaker is entitled to communicate her or his message to an audience during the allotted time, and all members of the audience are entitled to hear the message and see the speaker during that time; therefore, dissenters must not substantially interfere with a speaker’s ability to communicate or an audience’s ability to see and hear the speaker. Dissenters are entitled to express their objections in other ways: When an event is closed, dissent by non-attendees is limited to activity outside the event that does not impede access to the event or substantially interfere with communication inside; when an event is open, the acceptable form of dissent depends on whether a dissenter is inside or outside the event and on whether the dissenter is acting before, after, or during the event. Moreover, all speakers at HKS must take open questions from the audience at some point during the allotted time.

Picketing and Distributing Literature

Picketing and protesting in an orderly way or distributing literature outside an event are acceptable unless they impede access to the event or substantially interfere with communication inside the event. In order to facilitate both dissent and access to the event, HKS may designate certain areas in close proximity to an event in which picketing or protest can occur. Distributing literature inside an open event is acceptable before the event is called to order and after the event is adjourned, but not during the speaking portion of the event.

Silent or Symbolic Protest

Displaying a sign, wearing symbolic clothing, gesturing, standing, or otherwise protesting noiselessly inside an event is acceptable unless that protest interferes with an audience’s view or prevents a speaker from effectively conveying their message. Therefore, signs, prolonged standing, and other activity likely to block the view of a speaker should be confined to the back of a room.


Responding vocally to a speaker, spontaneously and temporarily, is generally acceptable. However, chanting or making other sustained or repeated noise in a manner that substantially interferes with the speaker’s communication is not permitted, whether inside or outside an event.

Force or Violence

Using or threatening force or violence—such as assaulting a speaker or a member of an audience, or interfering with the freedom of movement of a speaker or a member of an audience—is never permitted.

Responsibility of an Audience and Host

An audience and a host (including a host organization) must respect the right to dissent. For example, audience members should not attempt to remove signs that are not blocking the view of a speaker or shout down a questioner before a question has reasonably been finished. Anyone who substantially interferes with acceptable dissent is violating these guidelines as much as a dissenter who violates the rights of a speaker or audience.

Questions from Audience

All speakers invited to HKS must agree to take questions from the audience at some point during an event. An event’s host can determine the best format for an event as long as there is a meaningful opportunity for audience questions.

Moderator Role

HKS may determine that open and civil discussion at an event requires the use of a moderator and may designate a moderator in consultation with the host. A moderator will generally be a member of the faculty or administration of HKS or Harvard University. Decisions at the event about how to balance the rights of a speaker with the rights of dissenters will be made by the moderator or other officials designated by HKS or Harvard University. Failure to comply with requests by these moderators or other officials would be a violation of these guidelines.


Any violations of these guidelines by HKS students would represent violations of the student Code of Conduct and Harvard’s University-Wide Statement on Rights and Responsibilities, and the violators would be subject to appropriate disciplinary action. Any violations of the guidelines by staff members, faculty members, speakers, or other audience members would also be grounds for appropriate disciplinary action.

Firearms, Explosives, Combustible Fuels, Firecrackers, and Dangerous Weapons

Possession and/or use on University property of firearms or other dangerous weapons (as defined below) or ammunition, explosives, combustible fuels, firecrackers, and potential ingredients thereof are forbidden by University policy.

The applicable Massachusetts law is as follows:

For the purpose of this paragraph “firearm” shall mean any pistol, revolver, rifle or smoothbore arm from which a shot, bullet or pellet can be discharged.

Whoever, not being a law enforcement officer, and notwithstanding any license obtained by the person pursuant to chapter 140, carries on the person a firearm, loaded or unloaded, or other dangerous weapon in any building or on the grounds of any elementary or secondary school, college or university without the written authorization of the board or officer in charge of such elementary or secondary school, college or university shall be punished by a fine of not more than $1,000 or by imprisonment for not more than 2 years or both. A law enforcement officer may arrest without a warrant and detain a person found carrying a firearm in violation of this paragraph.

Any officer in charge of an elementary or secondary school, college or university, or any faculty member or administrative officer of an elementary or secondary school, college or university that fails to report violations of this paragraph shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and punished by a fine of not more than five hundred dollars.

Massachusetts General Laws, c. 269 § 10(j).

Under Massachusetts law, the definition of dangerous weapons includes many items designed to do bodily injury:

… any stiletto, dagger or a device or case which enables a knife with a locking blade to be drawn at a locked position, any ballistic knife, or any knife with a detachable blade capable of being propelled by any mechanism, dirk knife, any knife having a double-edged blade, or a switch knife, or any knife having an automatic spring release device by which the blade is released from the handle, having a blade of over one and one-half inches, or a slung shot, blowgun, blackjack, metallic knuckles or knuckles of any substance which could be put to the same use with the same or similar effect as metallic knuckles, nunchaku, zoobow, also known as klackers or kung fu sticks, or any similar weapon consisting of two sticks of wood, plastic or metal connected at one end by a length of rope, chain, wire or leather, a shuriken or any similar pointed starlike object intended to injure a person when thrown, or any armband, made with leather which has metallic spikes, points or studs or any similar device made from any other substance or a cestus or similar material weighted with metal or other substance and worn on the hand, or a Manriki-Gusari or similar length of chain having weighted ends …

Massachusetts General Laws, c. 269 § 10(b).

Students should recognize that even when they are away from the University, Massachusetts law requires a permit or firearms identification card or compliance with other specialized rules (depending upon the type of weapon) for possession of any firearms.

The definition of firearms is broad, and includes pistols or guns operated by air, carbon dioxide, or other gases. Carrying any firearm (even if unloaded) in violation of the law is punishable by imprisonment with a mandatory minimum sentence of eighteen months, which cannot be suspended or reduced.

Massachusetts General Laws, c. 269 § 10(a).

Students should consult the local police department in the city or town in which they reside if they intend to possess firearms on non-University property, in order to assure strict compliance with the applicable statutes.


Threats Involving Deadly Weapons, Explosives, Bombs, Chemical or Biological Agents, or Other Deadly Devices or Substance

The following provision of Massachusetts law concerning certain kinds of threats underscores why such behavior must be treated by HKS as an actionable offense:

Whoever willfully communicates or causes to be communicated, either directly or indirectly, orally, in writing, by mail, by use of a telephone or telecommunication device including, but not limited to, electronic mail, Internet communications and facsimile communications, through an electronic communication device or by any other means, a threat: (1) that a firearm, rifle, shotgun, machine gun or assault weapon, as defined in section 121 of chapter 140, an explosive or incendiary device, a dangerous chemical or biological agent, a poison, a harmful radioactive substance or any other device, substance or item capable of causing death, serious bodily injury or substantial property damage, will be used at a place or location, or is present or will be present at a place or location, whether or not the same is in fact used or present; or (2) to hijack an aircraft, ship, or common carrier thereby causing anxiety, unrest, fear, or personal discomfort to any person or group of persons shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not more than 20 years or imprisonment in the house of correction for not more than 2 1/2 years, or by fine of not more than $10,000, or by both such fine and imprisonment.

Whoever willfully communicates or causes to be communicated such a threat thereby causing either the evacuation or serious disruption of a school, school related event, school transportation, or a dwelling, building, place of assembly, facility or public transport, or an aircraft, ship or common carrier, or willfully communicates or causes serious public inconvenience or alarm, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not less than 3 years nor more than 20 years or imprisonment in the house of correction for not less than 6 months nor more than 2 1/2 years, or by fine of not less than $1,000 nor more than $50,000, or by both such fine and imprisonment.

Massachusetts General Laws, c. 269 § 14(b)-(c).


Drugs and Alcohol

The unlawful possession, use or distribution of illicit drugs and alcohol by students and employees on Harvard property or as part of any Harvard activities are violations of University rules as well as the law. Possession, use or distribution of certain nonprescription drugs, including marijuana, amphetamines, heroin, cocaine, and nonprescription synthetics; procurement or distribution of alcohol if anyone is under 21 years of age; and provision of alcohol to anyone under 21 years of age are violations of the law and Harvard policy. Although Massachusetts law now permits adults aged 21 or older to possess and consume marijuana under certain circumstances, federal law prohibits the possession, use or distribution of marijuana, including for medical purposes, on Harvard property or as part of a Harvard activity. Thus, even if possession of use of marijuana would be permitted under Massachusetts law, it remains prohibited on campus. Additionally, the misuse of prescription drugs (sharing, buying or using in a manner different than that prescribed) is a violation of University policy.

The university holds its students and employees responsible for the consequences of their decisions to use or distribute illicit drugs, or to serve or consume alcohol. Further, it expects students and employees to create and maintain an environment for learning and working that is safe and healthy and encourages responsible conduct. Refer to the Office of Campus Planning and Operations for information on HKS’ smoke-free and tobacco-free campus policy. The use of illicit drugs and the misuse of alcohol are potentially harmful to health. Because of the considerable health hazards involved in drug and alcohol use, administrative, medical and psychiatric services for students having drug problems or difficulty controlling their use of alcohol are available on a confidential basis from the Harvard University Health Services (HUHS). Any member of the university may make use of HUHS on an emergency basis, day or night.

Harvard University is not, and cannot be considered a sanctuary from the existing laws of the city, state or federal government. Students are reminded that there are heavy penalties, including imprisonment, for possession or distribution of illicit drugs and for selling or delivering alcohol to, or procuring alcohol for, someone under 21. There are also serious penalties for anyone caught falsifying a driver’s license, selling or distributing false IDs; and anyone, regardless of age, who operates a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs or with an open container of alcohol. There may be additional rules and guidelines concerning alcohol at HKS student events. Refer to the Student Life KNet site for information on alcohol policy for events supported by HKS.

State and local laws and regulations prohibit consumption of alcohol on public property or on property open to the public. The school may take disciplinary action when cases of this type come to its attention. While the school initially may respond to the use of illicit drugs, serving of alcohol to underage individuals, and over-consumption of alcohol with a warning and/or referral to health or counseling services, students should understand that violations of the school’s policies set forth above, including without limitation a pattern of behavior in violation of these rules may lead to disciplinary action by the Administrative Board ranging from admonition up to and including expulsion. The Administrative Board will take serious disciplinary actions in any case involving the possession in quantity or the sale or distribution of drugs, or when cases of drug and alcohol use involve danger to individuals or to the community at large.

Hazing and Harassment

HKS Policy on Hazing

Students are advised that Massachusetts law expressly prohibits any form of hazing in connection with the initiation of students into student groups and organizations. The relevant statutes are provided below. The law applies to both officially recognized and unrecognized student groups and to practices conducted on and off campus.

Using the definition of hazing set forth in the Massachusetts hazing statute, the Administrative Board will consider all reports of hazing in the normal course of its oversight, taking disciplinary action in appropriate cases, and will report confirmed incidents to appropriate law enforcement officials. If students are found responsible for hazing, they will be subject to disciplinary action by the Administrative Board ranging from admonition up to and including expulsion.

Refer to the HKS Anti-Harassment Guidelines on KNet for additional information.

The Massachusetts hazing statute (M.G.L. Chapter 269) states the following:

Section 17: Whoever is a principal organizer or participant in the crime of hazing, as defined herein, shall be punished by a fine of not more than three thousand dollars or by imprisonment in a house of correction for not more than one year, or both such fine and imprisonment.

The term “hazing” as used in this section and in sections eighteen and nineteen, shall mean any conduct or method of initiation into any student organization, whether on public or private property, which willfully or recklessly endangers the physical or mental health of any student or other person. Such conduct shall include whipping, beating, branding, forced calisthenics, exposure to the weather, forced consumption of any food, liquor, beverage, drug or other substance, or any other brutal treatment or forced physical activity which is likely to adversely affect the physical health or safety of any such student or other person, or which subjects such student or other person to extreme mental stress, including extended deprivation of sleep or rest or extended isolation.

Notwithstanding any other provisions of this section to the contrary, consent shall not be available as a defense to any prosecution under this action.

Section 18: Whoever knows that another person is the victim of hazing as defined in section seventeen and is at the scene of such crime shall, to the extent that such person can do so without danger or peril to himself or others, report such crime to an appropriate law enforcement official as soon as reasonably practicable. Whoever fails to report such crime shall be punished by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars.

Section 19: Each institution of secondary education and each public and private institution of post-secondary education shall issue to every student group, student team or student organization which is part of such institution or is recognized by the institution or permitted by the institution to use its name or facilities or is known by the institution to exist as an unaffiliated student group, student team or student organization, a copy of this section and sections seventeen and eighteen; provided, however, that an institution’s compliance with this section’s requirements that an institution issue copies of this section and sections seventeen and eighteen to unaffiliated student groups, teams or organizations shall not constitute evidence of the institution’s recognition or endorsement of said unaffiliated student groups, teams or organizations.

Each such group, team or organization shall distribute a copy of this section and sections seventeen and eighteen to each of its members, plebes, pledges or applicants for membership. It shall be the duty of each such group, team or organization, acting through its designated officer, to deliver annually, to the institution an attested acknowledgement stating that such group, team or organization has received a copy of this section and said sections seventeen and eighteen, that each of its members, plebes, pledges, or applicants has received a copy of sections seventeen and eighteen, and that such group, team or organization understands and agrees to comply with the provisions of this section and sections seventeen and eighteen.

Each institution of secondary education and each public or private institution of post-secondary education shall, at least annually, before or at the start of enrollment, deliver to each person who enrolls as a full-time student in such institution a copy of this section and sections seventeen and eighteen.

Each institution of secondary education and each public or private institution of post-secondary education shall file, at least annually, a report with the board of higher education and in the case of secondary institutions, the board of education, certifying that such institution has complied with its responsibility to inform student groups, teams or organizations and to notify each full time student enrolled by it of the provisions of this section and sections seventeen and eighteen and also certifying that said institution has adopted a disciplinary policy with regard to the organizers and participants of hazing, and that such policy has been set forth with appropriate emphasis in the student handbook or similar means of communicating the institution’s policies to its students. The board of higher education and, in the case of secondary institutions, the board of education shall promulgate regulations governing the content and frequency of such reports, and shall forthwith report to the attorney general any such institution which fails to make such report.

Expectations Prohibiting Racial and Other Harassment by Students

Harvard Kennedy School aspires to be an institution in which all students, staff, fellows, and faculty feel welcome and able to do their best learning and work. As part of achieving this goal, the School prohibits harassment against any member of our community, particularly harassment based on legally protected categories, including race and ethnicity, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, age, and marital status.

Harassment is verbal or physical behavior that demeans or abuses. Harassment is contrary to the School’s values and is prohibited by the School’s student codes of conduct. Harassment based on any of the legally protected categories can be addressed in one of two ways: 

  • Reporting and community resolution: The School encourages anyone who believes they have been subject to harassment based on a legally protected category to bring the incident or incidents to the attention of their program director or Amy Davies, Assistant Dean for Student Services and Programs. Instances of reported harassment will be evaluated and, when appropriate, addressed through discussion, mediation, education, or other collaborative approach, which will help to improve, educate, and support our community.
  • Formal complaints: In addition, harassment based on a legally protected category may form the basis of a formal complaint and disciplinary sanctions when the behavior is sufficiently severe or pervasive to create an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment that interferes with an individual’s educational experience or working conditions.

(Note that harassment based on sex, gender, or gender identity is also governed by the Harvard University Policies and Procedures on Sexual Harassment, which detail procedures for formal complaints in serious cases.)

Examples of conduct that can constitute harassment if based on an individual’s protected characteristic(s) include but are not limited to: Unwelcome jokes or comments about a legally protected characteristic (e.g., racial or ethnic jokes); Disparaging remarks to a person about a legally protected characteristic (e.g., negative or offensive remarks about a person's religion or religious garments, or offensive assumptions based on stereotypes); and Displaying negative or offensive posters or pictures about a legally protected characteristic.

The comments and remarks prohibited by this policy include those conveyed in person or electronically such as by e-mail, telephone, voicemail, text messaging, social media, video-conferencing, or other internet use.

One fundamental purpose of a university is to expose people to new ideas, even ones with which there is disagreement or discomfort. Therefore, expression occurring in an academic, educational, or research context is broadly protected by academic freedom. While everyone at HKS should be respectful in their interactions with other members of the HKS community, and we will work to make sure everyone recognizes and acknowledges the harm that offensive expression can cause, expression in an academic context does not constitute harassment under the law unless (in addition to satisfying the above definition) it is targeted at a specific person or persons, is abusive, and serves no bona fide academic purpose.

HKS Policies Addressing Title IX Sexual Harassment and Other Sexual Misconduct

Harvard Kennedy School has adopted the University-wide Interim Title IX Sexual Harassment Policy and Interim Other Sexual Misconduct Policy.  In addition, the University’s Sexual and Gender Based Harassment policy addresses sexual harassment and other sexual misconduct alleged to have occurred between September 1, 2014 and August 14, 2020. Copies of all policies and their associated grievance procedures can be found here.

In all such cases, the Harvard University Office for Dispute Resolution (ODR) and Harvard University's Office for Gender Equity are responsible for implementing the University’s grievance procedures, which will determine whether a student committed a policy violation. Whenever a formal complaint of sexual harassment or other sexual misconduct is investigated and the University’s grievance procedures result in a finding that a policy violation has occurred, the HKS Administrative Board (Ad Board) must accept that finding as final and non-reviewable. The only opportunity to appeal the determination of a policy violation is provided within the grievance procedures implemented by the ODR and the Office for Gender Equity. Appeals within HKS pertain only to the decision of the HKS Administrative Board (Ad Board) in determining discipline.




Admissions Materials

Occasionally candidates for admission will make inaccurate or incomplete statements or submit false materials in their applications to Harvard Kennedy School. In most cases, these misrepresentations or omissions are discovered during the admission process and the application is rejected.

Harvard Kennedy School does not knowingly provide false information or "cover" for any member of our community who is from an intelligence agency. It is against Kennedy School policies for members of our community to carry out intelligence operations at Harvard Kennedy School. To do so would be contrary to our mission and values.

If a misrepresentation or omission is discovered after a candidate is admitted but before the candidate has registered, the offer of admission ordinarily will be withdrawn. If a misrepresentation or omission is discovered after a student has registered, or registered and completed courses, the offer of admission ordinarily will be rescinded, the course credit and grades will be revoked, and the student will be required to leave the School. If the discovery occurs after a degree has been awarded, the offer of admission ordinarily will be rescinded, and the course credit, grades, and degree will be revoked.

The determination that an application is inaccurate or contains misrepresentations rests with the HKS Office of Admissions and the senior associate dean for Degree Programs and Student Affairs, and will be resolved outside of the student disciplinary process.

Use of Harvard Data

As members of the HKS and Harvard communities, students may be asked to assist with faculty research, to serve on committees, or to be involved with other School and University groups who use Harvard data to inform their work. Students are required to respect the private nature of any such data and must abide by all Harvard use of data policies. Students may access and use of Harvard data only for the sole purpose intended. Misappropriation, misuse, or unauthorized use ordinarily will result in disciplinary action.


Copyright Laws

Federal law prohibits the reproduction, distribution, public display, or public performance of copyrighted materials, or the preparation of derivative works based on such copyrighted materials, without permission of the copyright holder, except in accordance with fair use or other specifically applicable statutory exceptions.

Read  about  the Digital  Millennium Copyright  Act.


Use of Harvard Resources

Membership in the University affords students access to a wide array of resources, including, for example, one of the world’s greatest libraries, extensive computing and network facilities, laboratories, and works of art and architecture of immeasurable value. Access to these resources makes time at Harvard a special privilege; students have rights and responsibilities regarding their use.

To safeguard the integrity of such resources, the University relies on its students to use them with care, appropriately, and as authorized; to respect the rights of others who also have access; and to observe the rules granting access to, and use of, those resources. Harvard and its resources are not to be used by individuals for personal financial gain. Students may not use university or school resources (facilities, personnel, or equipment) to support individual businesses or other outside activities or third party organizations without authorization, or for any other purposes that are unrelated to the education, research, scholarship, and public service missions of the university. Students may not sell lecture or reading notes, papers, or translations from HKS classes. Failure to abide by the rules governing the use of Harvard resources ordinarily will result in disciplinary action.


Use of Harvard Name

The University’s Policy on the Use of the Harvard Name and Insignias provides that students may use the Harvard name (alone or in conjunction with the name of a specific school or unit) or any Harvard or School logo or insignia (including shields and other official graphics) only with the approval of their Dean or the Provost, except as follows: students are generally permitted to identify themselves in publications or other public activities with an accurate, specific affiliation (e.g. "John Doe MPP candidate, Harvard Kennedy School") so long as this is done in a manner that makes clear they are students and does not imply University endorsement or responsibility for any particular activity, product or publication involved.

Students may not permit any third party to use the Harvard names or trademarks without authorization from the Harvard Trademark Program. Students also need permission to use the Harvard or HKS logo or insignia in any manner.

Any student group that uses the Harvard Kennedy School name must identify itself in all publications and materials as a student organization. For example, on letterhead, posters, other written materials, websites, online notices, etc., the name or web banner, etc. should say "HKS Water Caucus, a student organization at Harvard Kennedy School." All Harvard student group names incorporating any of the University’s trademarks are owned by President and Fellows of Harvard College (Harvard University) and are used by permission of the University. In addition, the use of any of Harvard’s shields/logos by student groups is by permission of the University. Any use of Harvard’s names/logos by student groups or students must comply with all relevant University policies, including the policy on the Use of Harvard Names and Insignias.

The school expects that if students use social media platforms in their individual capacity (for example, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Storify, among many others) with an individual account that reflects their affiliation as Harvard or Harvard Kennedy School students, they will accurately identify their status as a student and make clear that their opinions are their own and do not represent an institutional view. For instance, a blog’s "about the author" page or a Twitter account’s description may contain language like "Student at Harvard Kennedy School."

Before posting students should think carefully about the impact their public posts could have on fellow members of the Harvard and/or Harvard Kennedy School community.


Disciplinary Actions and Sanctions

Students are expected to comply with all disciplinary rules from matriculation until the conferring of the degree. A degree will not be granted to a student who is not in good standing or has a disciplinary charge pending. After a case is brought to the attention of the designated HKS disciplinary officer, they will consult with the faculty member(s) or other person(s) presenting the case and with the student(s) involved, and will collect written statements and supporting documentation from all parties. Disciplinary cases ordinarily are considered by the Administrative Board (Ad Board)—a body appointed by the Dean and composed of HKS faculty members and administrators—as quickly as is reasonably possible, given the Board’s schedule and the need to investigate matters carefully. Note that the Ad Board does not meet during the summer months.

If, upon review by the disciplinary officer and the chair of the Ad Board (or his/her designee), there is inadequate evidence to suggest an infraction of the HKS rules to justify review by the Ad Board, the case will not advance.

If, upon review by the disciplinary officer and the Ad Board chair (or his/her designee), there is adequate evidence to suggest an infraction, they will schedule a meeting of the Ad Board.

When it convenes, the Board will review all relevant materials and arrive at a conclusion as to whether there has been an infraction of the HKS rules and, if so, taking into account Board precedent and any mitigating circumstances, what disciplinary action is warranted. The range of actions the Ad Board may take is outlined in the section labelled “sanctions” in this handbook. All decisions require a vote of at least 2/3 of the Ad Board members present at the meeting (provided there is a quorum).

Procedures for Cases Involving Allegations of Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment

HKS has adopted the University-wide Sexual and Gender Based Harassment Policy (University Policy) and has incorporated the university’s Procedures for Handling Complaints Involving Students (University Procedures), including for purposes of student discipline. Harvard University’s Office for Sexual and Gender-Based Dispute Resolution (ODR) has been charged with implementing the University Procedures, which include processes for initial review, investigation, and determination of whether there was a violation of the University Policy.

When the school receives an allegation of sexual or gender-based harassment against a student, either directly or upon notification from ODR, the senior associate dean for Degree Programs and Student Affairs or the assistant dean for student services and programs will meet with the student respondent to explain, among other things, the disciplinary process that may take place following the issuance of ODR’s final report, and the range of disciplinary sanctions.

When the alleged conduct is found to violate the University Policy, the school’s Ad Board will consider the imposition of appropriate sanctions, as described below.

Regardless of whether the alleged conduct has been found to violate the University Policy, the Ad Board also will consider whether it violates other HKS rules and expectations for behavior. If so, the Ad Board will handle the case in accordance with its ordinary policies and procedures, as set forth above.

All members of the Ad Board will receive appropriate training in the handling and resolution of allegations of sexual and gender-based harassment. The respondent and complainant will be notified when a violation of the University Policy is referred to the Ad Board for consideration of discipline. Within three days of this notification, the respondent and complainant may each submit a written statement to the Ad Board solely for the purpose of addressing what, if any, sanctions each feels is appropriate. Neither is required to do so. The statements may not challenge the validity of the findings of fact and conclusions contained in the final report, and also may not introduce facts that could have been presented to the investigator or that conflict with any of the findings in the final report. The Ad Board will accept as final and nonreviewable the ODR report’s findings of fact and its conclusions as to whether a violation of the policy has occurred.


After review of the facts and circumstances in any case of misconduct, the Ad Board may take the following actions:

  • Charge dismissed
  • Admonition: a formal rebuke to a student whose behavior violates the rules or standards of conduct of the community. An admonition does not become part of the student’s official record.
  • Reprimand: a formal rebuke to a student whose behavior violates the rules or standards of conduct of the community. A reprimand does become a permanent part of the student’s official record.
  • Probation: a strong warning to a student whose conduct gives serious cause for concern. Probation is a formal disciplinary action and becomes part of the student’s official record. No student on probation may be recommended for a degree. Further, during the probation period, any further instance of misconduct will cause the Ad Board to seriously consider requiring the student to withdraw except in very unusual cases. The duration and terms of probation are set by the Ad Board.
  • Requirement to withdraw: action taken in serious disciplinary cases indicating that a student’s behavior is unacceptable in the community. Requirement to withdraw is a formal disciplinary action and becomes part of the student’s official record. Requirement to withdraw is ordinarily effective immediately upon vote of the Ad Board. The student’s transcript will show a permanent notation that the student was required to withdraw. Students who have been required to withdraw may petition for readmission under terms stipulated by the Ad Board. If a student is required to withdraw for academic or disciplinary misconduct, all scholarship and grant assistance is forfeited and assistance will not be renewed for subsequent periods of enrollment even if a student is allowed to re-enroll.
  • Dismissal: action taken in serious disciplinary cases whereby a student’s connection with the University is ended by vote of the HKS faculty (the action taken by the Ad Board is a vote of requirement to withdraw with a recommendation to the faculty that the student be dismissed). Dismissal is effective upon a 2/3 vote of the faculty; a second 2/3 vote of both the Ad Board and the faculty is required in order for the student to return. If a student is dismissed for academic or disciplinary misconduct, all scholarship and grant assistance is forfeited and assistance will not be renewed for subsequent periods of enrollment even if the student is allowed to re-enroll.
  • Expulsion: the most extreme disciplinary action possible. It signifies the student is no longer welcome in the community. Expulsion must be voted by the HKS faculty (the action taken by the Ad Board is a vote of requirement to withdraw with a recommendation to the faculty that the student be expelled). Expulsion is effective upon a 2/3 vote of the faculty. A student who has been expelled may not be readmitted. If a student is expelled for academic or disciplinary misconduct, all scholarship and grant assistance is forfeited.