One of the uglier and more corrupt institutions of American higher learning — the Kennedy School of Government — has shot another brick:
Hundreds of Harvard affiliates called on Harvard Kennedy School Dean Douglas W. Elmendorf to resign on Tuesday following accusations that he denied former Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth a fellowship over his criticism of Israel.
Affiliates demanded Elmendorf’s resignation in an open letter addressed to Harvard University President Lawrence S. Bacow, University President-elect Claudine Gay, and Elmendorf. The letter, signed by 360 affiliates and co-sponsored by 19 student organizations as of Tuesday night, comes as Elmendorf faces fierce backlash from free speech and civil rights advocacy organizations for vetoing Roth’s fellowship at HKS’ Carr Center for Human Rights Policy.
The Harvard Kennedy School Palestinian Alumni Collective, a group with over 40 members, first called for Elmendorf’s resignation in a statement on Tuesday, saying he “has abrogated his responsibility to the HKS community and the principles underpinning free thought in a free society.”
The open letter from Harvard affiliates said Elmendorf’s decision to deny Roth a fellowship over criticism of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians is an “act of censorship and a threat to free expression and academic freedom.”
“For the sake of academic freedom at Harvard and human rights globally, Dean Elmendorf must resign and Harvard Kennedy School administration must reverse this decision and reconsider Ken Roth as an invited fellow for the 2023-24 academic year,” the open letter said.
This kind of double standard regarding whose human rights abuses can be fairly criticized can no longer be considered surprising, but that makes it no less defensible.