Media, Not Students, Question bin Laden Link
Andy Tiedemann, a spokesperson in the development office, said no Harvard students have called to object to the bin Laden fellowships.
“I have yet to hear from a student, and I’ve heard from only a few alumni, as well as general public inquiries,” Tiedemann said.
He said most calls he had received about the fellowships were simply to clarify, rather than criticize.
“Most people just want to understand what the facts are,” Tiedemann said. “Some people have been given misinformation or misheard what the facts were.” He would not specify how the public may have been misinformed, saying “that the coverage in the media has been accurate.”
But the media, intrigued by the association of the bin Laden name and Harvard, have called University public relations officials repeatedly. University spokesperson Joe Wrinn said he has been called by “dozens and dozens of press agencies from all around the world,” including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Boston Globe.
“From the start, to me, it was just very understandable how someone might get a misimpression,” Wrinn said. “If you remember back to the barrage of images that were coming across and the quick bits of information, you were hearing bin Laden, bin Laden, Harvard, bin Laden, so I think it was understandable that people might draw the wrong message.”
Wrinn took issue with a Boston morning talk show which described Harvard as taking “blood money” from the bin Laden family.
“Where [the media] strayed,” Wrinn said, “was kind of first, second and third-hand type of retelling.”
The bin Laden family’s endowed fellowships totals $2 million, for use at Harvard’s law and design schools. Since the attacks, Harvard officials have stressed that the University would cease using the endowed funds if they found any explicit link with Osama bin Laden’s terrorist organization.
In the wake of the attacks, the University has removed the names of this year’s bin Laden fellows from the Harvard website for security concerns, however.
Last week, the University came under attack from the Cambridge City Council for its bin Laden fellowships, when Councillor Kenneth E. Reeves ’72 demanded that Harvard give the bin Laden endowment money to the victims of the terrorist attacks. The council’s ultimately voted for a resolution asking the University to donate $5 million to funds benefiting the victims, but did not explicitly tie the request to Harvard’s bin Laden connection.