Dean Kidd Issues Apology for E-Mail

In a letter released to The Crimson last night, Associate Dean of the College Judith H. Kidd apologized to the campus Muslim community for a controversial e-mail she sent last week to the editors of The Harvard Salient.

Kidd’s Feb. 15 e-mail warned of a possible retaliatory response to the biweekly conservative newspaper’s publication of controversial Danish cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad.

She cautioned Salient editors to “be alert to the possibility that some segments of the campus and surrounding communities may be sufficiently upset by the publication of the cartoons that they may become dangerous.”

The recent publication of the controversial cartoons in European newspapers has spurred protests around the globe, some of which have become violent.

The text of Kidd’s original e-mail made its way onto the open list of the Harvard Islamic Society (HIS) last week, prompting an uproar among Muslim students who called her words “offensive” and “unacceptable.”

“I deeply regret that my message made the Muslim community feel characterized as dangerous, which was certainly not my intent,” Kidd wrote in her letter of apology. “[The] same concern for the safety of the editors of The Salient should also have been shown to our Muslim students at the same time,” she added. “And for this lack, I am also sorry.”

Kidd also praised the HIS in her e-mail, calling the organization ”a model of strong and fair response to a difficult situation.”

“In my talks with the Harvard Islamic Society officers and members, both before and after this event, I have become aware of their concerns and have hoped to be a source of support to them,” she wrote. “I continue to have that hope, despite this setback.”

Dean of the College Benedict H. Gross ’71 met with several Muslim undergraduates last Friday and promised to work with Kidd to issue a “clarification” of her e-mail, but the students called for a formal apology from Kidd.

HIS President Khalid M. Yasin ’07 welcomed Kidd’s apology.

“We obviously realized that it was not her intent to offend,” he said last night.

Nonetheless, he said, Kidd’s apology will help people on campus understand why remarks like those in Kidd’s original e-mail might be offensive.

But Salient Editor Travis R. Kavulla ’06-’07 characterized Kidd’s apology as an “interesting backtrack.”

“As I’ve said before, she probably should’ve apologized, and that was something for her to work out with the Harvard Islamic Society,” Kavulla said last night. “Now she has, and the matter can be put to rest. Lucky us.”

—Staff writer Matthew S. Lebowitz can be reached at mslebow@fas.harvard.edu.



The full text of Kidd’s apology:



To the Members of the Harvard Community:

Late in the afternoon of February 15th, I sent a hasty message to The Salient which has caused pain to Muslim students on campus. I deeply regret that my message made the Muslim community feel characterized as dangerous, which was certainly not my intent. My message to The Salient was in response to a request that I alert the editors to the possibility of repercussions because of their publication of the Danish cartoons.

This same concern for the safety of the editors of The Salient should also have been shown to our Muslim students at the same time. And for this lack, I am also sorry. In my talks with the Harvard Islamic Society officers and members, both before and after this event, I have become aware of their concerns and have hoped to be a source of support to them. I continue to have that hope, despite this setback.

Harvard College values each and every student, a sentiment that I deeply embrace and act upon. All students should know that our offices are open to you and to your concerns. The Harvard Islamic Society has been a model of strong and fair response to a difficult situation. My admiration and appreciation is deep.



Judith Kidd

Judith H. Kidd, Associate Dean of Harvard College