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Dean Elmendorf: Defend Transparency & Rescind All IOP Fellowships

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Dear Dean Elmendorf,

As members of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government community, we are concerned about the recent offering of IOP fellowships to Chelsea Manning, Sean Spicer, and Corey Lewandowski, and the subsequent rescinding of Manning’s fellowship. We are dissatisfied by the opaque logic applied in Ms. Manning’s case. The choice violates our school’s core values of truth, diversity, concern for the vulnerable, and commitment to public interest. We believe it is only fair that all IOP Visiting Fellows have their fellowships rescinded until a transparent process develops clear criteria for offering such fellowships.

The stated reason for rescinding Manning’s fellowship was to deny her the “special honor” which a fellowship conveys. We do not believe that Lewandowski and Spicer have shown such exceptional leadership, or commitment to public service and HKS values that they merit the distinguished honor of receiving a fellowship which Manning was denied. Whether Spicer and Lewandowski should be invited to speak is a separate issue that should be discussed by the HKS community. This issue is not about free speech. It is about ensuring transparent and values-based criteria for offering fellowships. It does not appear that any such criteria currently exist for selecting IOP Visiting Fellows.

To justify rescinding Manning’s fellowship you wrote that since “many people view a Visiting Fellow title as an honorific… we should weigh, for each potential visitor, what members of the Kennedy School community could learn from that person’s visit against the extent to which that person’s conduct fulfills the values of public service to which we aspire.” Why haven’t the actions of other fellows disqualified them from such honor and legitimacy?

Spicer and Lewandowski each had well documented failures of public leadership and questionable values, from their hostility towards journalism - and indeed towards the truth itself - to their roles ushering in an administration of hateful, divisive, and self-serving policies. Manning sacrificed her freedom to reveal the truth, while the others concealed the truth. Mr. Lewandowski was even charged with assaulting a reporter. It seems that in the absence of clear criteria and a transparent process for selecting fellows, the calculations unfortunately tilted the scales towards dishonesty, and violated the value emblazoned upon the Harvard shield, veritas, a commitment to truth.

The timing of your decision alongside C.I.A. Director Mike Pompeo’s canceled talk and Michael Morrell’s resignation suggests that powerful actors may have influenced your decision. Does the C.I.A. make fellowship decisions? Do students and faculty deserve a greater voice in these choices? How might the process be more transparent?

We support a public process convening stakeholders to determine a set of criteria for fellowships and speakers, and to determine the next Director of the IOP. We welcome the creation of a smart and transparent process to sort these issues, offer fellowships and invitations based on such criteria, and defend our school’s core values.

We are open to different perspectives on which speakers enhance the HKS environment of dialogue and debate. However, in the name of fairness and transparency, we request that all IOP Visiting Fellows have their titles immediately rescinded until clear criteria are established. We thank you in advance for collaborating to ensure that our school’s values are the driving force behind decisions.

Harvard Kennedy School of Government Students, Alumni, and Community

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